US. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree will play basketball again some day. Just don’t count on that some day coming any time between now and June.
The Georgia Tech senior happily reports that his left thumb is doing much better as he gets set to fly with his Yellow Jacket teammates to Hawaii this weekend ahead of their opening college tournament of the spring season, the Amer Ari Invitational. That wasn’t the case, however, in late November after Ogletree injured himself during a pickup hoops game—and briefly wondered if starts at the Masters and U.S. Open that he earned en route to his Pinehurst win last August might be in jeopardy.
At first, Ogletree thought he had suffered just a bad jam, but when his thumb didn’t feel any better after returning to school from Thanksgiving break, he visited doctors on campus. X-rays showed no broken bones, and he was told to wear a brace and rest it for four to six weeks. It wasn’t ideal, but that would provide time to heal before his 2020 majors starts—as the U.S. Am winner he’s expected to play in the same group as defending champion Tiger Woods at the Masters—as well as his last crack at an NCAA Championship in May.
The bigger short-term problem? Ogletree had his first visit to Augusta National lined up for early December. Without hitting any balls beforehand, Ogletree made the trip and played two rounds “with my thumb off the club.”
Still in a great deal of pain after that trip, Ogletree went to see a hand specialist for another look. After getting an MRI, the diagnosis was a bad bone bruise and torn tendons. The time frame for recovery remained the same, but Ogletree was in a cast back at his family home in Union, Miss., throughout the Christmas break.
“I was a little frustrated just because the off season is when I like to work on stuff,” Ogletree said. “Obviously I like to give myself a break, too, but the offseason is when I like to do some stuff and do a little more strength training.”
Since returning to school after New Year’s, Ogletree has been undergoing a treatment regime that’s included stretching exercises, laser stimulus and hot wax therapy. He was first able to practice his chipping and putting, then got the clearance two weekends ago to hit full shots again. Ogletree played pain free in Georgia Tech’s qualifiers for Hawaii, posting sub-par scores on multiple occasions.
Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler admitted to some anxiousness during the off-season as he hoped Ogletree could make a quick recovery, but tried to find an upside to the incident. “He had a busy 2019 and he’s going to have a very busy schedule in 2020 given all the opportunities he has this spring, then NCAAs, then turning professional and trying to earn a tour card,” Heppler said. “Having some down time probably might prove helpful.”
Ogletree says he’s not going to “live in bubble wrap,” but that he has a better appreciation for being mindful of his non-golf activities, particularly with the unique opportunities he has lined up this spring.
“It definitely put it in perspective, though, it can be taken so quickly,” Ogletree said. “Just got to be a little more careful.”