- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2003

SANDWICH, England — Moments after it happened, veteran Skip Kendall was too shocked to scream.

“It was the Tuesday morning of the Memorial [May 27]. One moment I’m cutting a bagel, and the next blood is spurting everywhere,” Kendall said yesterday. “I just kept thinking it didn’t hurt that much. But when I got it cleaned up a little, I see I’ve basically amputated my left index finger. It’s not completely off, but the tip is just sort of dangling off the bone.

“It’s safe to say I was pretty stirred up.”

That’s because the 38-year-old Kendall is the definition of a rank-and-filer.

During his 17-year pro career, Kendall has been forced to make nine trips to Q-School and has never finished higher than 32nd on the money list. He has the dubious distinction of being the active Tour player with the most starts (280) without a victory.

Such an injury could be devastating for an elite player. But for a player like Kendall without next year’s exempt status secured, the words “career ending” come to mind.

After several hours of surgery, Kendall once again had 10 complete digits. But the doctor’s prognosis left him crippled with doubt.

“He said I’d cut some nerves in there, and my hand action might never be the same,” Kendall said. “He also said it would be six to eight weeks before I could hit a ball. I just kept thinking that I couldn’t afford to miss that much time. So I decided to change my grip and give it a go anyway.”

Kendall, who had always used a conventional overlap grip (left index finger tucked inside the right palm), switched to a reverse overlap (left index finger over right pinky). And the result has been pure magic.

Just three weeks after the injury, Kendall returned to action at the Buick Classic (June16-22), carding rounds of 68-66-70-70 at Westchester to finish in a tie for fourth, his best result of the season.

“I found that I was so happy just to be out there that I wasn’t worrying about little things,” said Kendall, who went on to finish T13 at the Western Open and T52 at the Greater Milwaukee Open.

The statistics are somewhat shocking.

In 15 pre-injury starts, Kendall had missed three cuts and had a stroke average of 72.9. In his 12 competitive rounds since, Kendall has a stroke average of 69.4 and has banked more than $275,000.

At this week’s 132nd British Open he is trying to add a fourth consecutive successful chapter to one of the oddest tales on tour in recent years.

“I just feel lucky all over to be here,” said Kendall, who is making his second Open start (he missed the cut at Birkdale in 1998). “I keep joking with people that if I keep playing well, I might pull the knife back out. I mean, I’ve got 19 other fingers and toes.”

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