Jeff Klauk looks similar to the other 155 players that begin play Thursday at the Chiquita Classic at the Club at Longview in Weddington
Beautiful golf swing. The rhythm of a band leader. Gentle putting stroke.
The difference is Klauk has 108 electrodes planted in and around his brain.
Diagnosed with epilepsy years ago, Klauk is fighting an aggressive battle against his condition, recently resuming his golf career after being away from competition for more than a year. His appearance at the Chiquita Classic is just his second start since June 2011, following his return to the Web.com Tour two weeks ago at the Albertsons Boise Open, where he missed the 36-hole cut.
“When I get out here, (golf) it’s what I think about. It’s great to get out here and compete and hopefully have a chance to win on Sunday,” Klauk, 31, said standing in the sunshine beside Longview’s 18th green.
In 2009, Klauk finished 60th in the FedEx Cup points race on the PGA Tour. The son of Fred Klauk, the longtime superintendent at TPC Sawgrass, the site of The Players Championship, Jeff had suffered two grand mal seizures in 2005 but had those under control with medication.
While driving with his wife on Christmas Eve 2010, Klauk suffered a complex partial seizure. When medicine treatments weren’t effective enough, it led Klauk to a more aggressive approach.
“The seizures last 20 or 30 seconds then I’m totally fine. My quality of life is great. I’m sure for the person who sees it, those few seconds are a bummer,” Klauk said.
Klauk, a two-time winner on the Web.com tour, played his last golf tournament in June 2011. The side effects from his medication caused dizziness and small hand tremors. He also hasn’t been allowed to drive for more than a year due to the risk of seizures.
In May, Klauk had surgery during which doctors implanted electrodes in an effort to control the seizures. So far, the results have been encouraging.
“It was a nine-hour surgery. It wasn’t fun. My family was waiting forever to see what was going on,” Klaus said.
“For me, it’s more about getting some answers. I wouldn’t say I was excited about it but it was nice to have something.”
The plan included a second surgery in which doctors would remove a two-inch portion of the left side of Klauk’s brain. Because that is the side of the brain that controls motor skills, Klauk decided to put off the surgery.
“It’s not worth the gamble right now. It may be later in life,” Klauk said. “I just decided not to do it now. The medicine is managing it pretty well. It’s a good concoction.”
Despite the health challenges and putting his golf career on hold, Klauk said he has loved the extra time he has been able to spend with his family. He is grateful for the support that has come from so many people, and for the willingness of others to drive him where he needs to be, whether at home in Jacksonville, Fla., or on the road now that he is back.
“It’s frustrating, obviously, but my quality of life is great. I’m not going to complain too much about it,” Klauk said.
Gastonia’s Harold Varner III earned a spot in the field Monday through qualifying and will make his first Web.com tour start at Longview. Varner, a former N.C. Amateur champion, turned pro earlier this year after graduating from East Carolina.
In four starts on the eGolf Professional Tour, Varner has two, top-six finishes.
“I just have to worry about playing well,” Varner said. “I can’t worry about what anyone else is doing. I just have to take care of business.