BY JEFF FALK
North, South, East or West?
Blaine Peffley is standing at the crossroads of his six-year professional golf career. Each direction is dotted with potholes and pitfalls.
But the one he chooses will determine the course of his career, and ultimately affect the rest of his life.
Peffley, a resident of Lebanon and a graduate of Cedar Crest, isn’t all that far removed from career-changing back surgery. And while trying to get back into the swing of things, Peffley has found the going rough.
For Peffley his struggles have been more mental than physical. Some of them are related to time. Some of them are related to confidence. Others are related to consistency.
“I’ve only made two cuts,” said Peffley. “I’ll do pretty good during the week, then play bad on the weekends. Overall it’s been tough and frustrating. Being off really hurt me.
“It’s just being rusty,” Peffley added. “I don’t know. I’m not hitting it as hard as I once did. There’s a lot of different things going on. My putting’s been terrible and my nerves are no good. I’ve struggled with this problem my whole life. That’s the reason I’ve been using a long putter my whole life.”
After major back surgery kept him away from professional golf for more than a year, the 27-year-old Peffley has been competing in minor tour events on the E-Golf and NGA Pro tours. Of the six tournaments in which he has played this summer, Peffley has missed four cuts.
His best finish was a tied for 22nd, while in another he came in tied for 45th place.
“I remember how good I used to hit it,” said Peffley, a graduate of Maryland University. “In 2007, I was ripping it. I was turning heads out here. That doesn’t happen any more. I’m an average lengthed player.
“But I’m hitting it much straighter now,” added Peffley. “I know exactly where it’s going now. Yes, I’ve made up for it. It’s more consistently straight.”
From an early age,Peffley has always been focused, confident and aggressive. Those are mental aspects of the game which Peffley not only developed, but ones that are also associated with ‘grinding’ in professional circles.
“Well, I mean…” said Peffley. “Right now I’d say there’s no game plan. Just one step at a time. Yeah, I know what I have to do. It’s just not happening. I’ve just got to keep practicing, I guess.”
Prior to now, the last time Peffley felt completely healthy was during the early months of 2010.
“In 2009, I definitely played the best golf of my life,” said Peffley, who competed in the 2010 United States Open at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in California. “For the entire year, I played well. In 2007, I was probably at my peak. But in 2009, I played better longer.”
‘My back feels OK,” continued Peffley. “It feels fine. The only time it tightens up is when we have rain delays.”
A back to a golfer is like an arm to a pitcher, fingers to a pianist or legs to a runner. In April of 2011, Peffley underwent a procedure involving vertebrae being fused in his back.
“The pain in my back has been significantly decreased,” said Peffley. “I virtually have no pain. Basically my hips were an inch-and-a-half off and my back couldn’t take it any more, and my disc gave out.
“The procedure was great,” Peffley continued. “And the therapy really helped me. It helped me get back to normal. I’m having minor problems, but nothing like before.”
After shutting himself down, Peffley rehabbed his back with physical therapy and rest.
“I’ve always had back problems here and there,” said Peffley. “But it was always fixable.
“If I didn’t get that fixed, I couldn’t sleep,” continued Peffley. “The surgery was 100 percent effective. Now it’s just a matter of getting rid of the rust. Everything is connected. Everything was wrong, for I don’t know how long.”