ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Braden Shattuck knows what it’s like to watch the game of golf be taken away from him. While playing the mini-tours and chasing professional golf aspirations in Florida four years ago, Shattuck, now 28, was involved in a car accident in which he herniated two discs in his back. Walking became a painful challenge, and he had serious doubts that golf would be a part of his future.
For a player who loved to play and practice, and no stranger to 12-hour days spent working on his game, Shattuck could not swing a club for the better part of two years. Once healthy, he returned to the game in a different role, gaining his PGA of America A-14 designation a year ago and taking on duties as the director of instruction at Rolling Green Golf Club, just outside of Philadelphia.
This week, he has a tournament to play in upstate New York. He is in the first group of the day at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. Shattuck got here by winning in his PGA Professional Championship debut at Twin Warriors Golf Club in New Mexico earlier this month, one of 20 club professionals to make it through and earn a berth in the PGA at storied Oak Hill, which is playing host to its fourth PGA Championship.
Asked if could imagine being here as a participant considering where he was four years ago, Shattuck said, “I could definitely imagine it. But I didn’t think it would actually happen.”
It was two years after the accident that Shattuck was able to play nine holes, and even then, he couldn’t practice. He came up with a makeshift, overhauled swing that he said feels almost as if it belongs to somebody else. He utilizes a weaker grip with his top) left hand and changed his swing path to be more upright.
Shattuck will play in Thursday’s opening group alongside Shaun Micheel, who won the PGA at Oak Hill in 2003, and New Zealand’s Steven Alker, last year’s Kitchenaid Senior PGA champion. Shattuck, who played one year of college golf at Delaware before chasing the mini-tour circuit, shot 9-under 279 to win by a shot at Twin Warriors and Santa Ana Golf Clubs.
“Yeah, for a while there I thought golf might be out of the question,” Shattuck said, looking back to his 2019 accident in which the car he was traveling in was t-boned by another driver at an intersection. Beyond the herniated discs, he sustained a concussion and experienced nerve issues in his legs. “You kind of rely on uncertainty there for a while, and it kind of sucks. But yeah, definitely the goal was still to get back here.”
Rolling Hills held a watch party for Shattuck’s final round, with about 50-60 members on edge as they watched. Several are expected to make the six-hour drive to upstate New York to see him compete.
Shattuck is one of 12 first-timers among the 20 PGA pros who compose the Corebridge Financial team. As national champion, he will get six start on the PGA Tour beginning in 2024. Asked for his goal for this week at a demanding Oak Hill test, Shattuck said it would be to play his way into the weekend. (“I don’t think it’s reasonable to think I can win the golf tournament and beat the best players in the world,” he said, “but I think I can definitely make the cut this week.”
Scott Chisholm, director of golf at Rolling Hills, where Shattuck teaches, said it’s a busy week at the club, with several events scheduled, but a lot of folks will be taking a keen interest in how Shattuck fares in his first major championship. Chisholm said Shattuck has no weaknesses in his game, and carries enough length to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with top tour pros from around the world.
Best yet, Shattuck’s participation has sparked some nice energy back at his home club.
“The members are excited for Braden,” Chisholm said. “I know his lesson book is certainly filling up right now.”