Injury mars Affrunti’s rookie PGA season

Surviving a rookie season on the PGA Tour is hard enough, but for Crystal Lake’s Joe Affrunti went through a nightmare in his first four months on golf’s premier circuit.
Affrunti qualified for his PGA Tour card by finishing in the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list last season, but that status didn’t assure him many tournament appearances. In fact, he’s played just six times. And, when he has played, he’s struggled.
In those six tournaments Affrunti survived the 36-hole cut only twice. His earnings entering this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans is just $18,837. To say he’ll have to step it up if he’s to keep his card is putting it mildly.
For Affrunti, though, the problem has been as much his health as the stern competition he’s now facing.
Five weeks ago Affrunti entered the Nationwide Tour’s Louisiana Open to get himself some competition. He felt tightness in his left shoulder, and daily massages didn’t improve the situation. That led to Affrunti withdrawing after his Saturday round — even though a paycheck would have been assured had he played on Sunday.
“I went home to see an orthopedic guy at Rush Hospital,’’ said Affrunti. “He said I had rotator cuff tendinitis, and I didn’t touch a club for three weeks.’’
Along with the rest Affrunti was given cortisone pills and an exercise program. He returned to the PGA Tour at the Valero Texas Open, shot 72-79, missed the cut again and realized his health problems weren’t over quite yet.
“I tried, but my should was super, super stiff — more of a throbbing pain,’’ he said.
At least Affrunti feels he’s now able to play, and his season could be revived over the next few weeks when he has a steady diet of tournaments.
“I’ll just suck it up,’’ he said. “I’ll play five of the next six weeks, either on the Nationwide or PGA Tour, and I hope to get things going. Then after that come the qualifiers for the U.S. Open and British Open. I’m better the more I play — hopefully.’’
The only week that Affrunti won’t be playing over the next six is The Players Championship, considered the “fifth major’’ on the PGA circuit.
“I’d be in that if I win at New Orleans,’’ said Affrunti, who starred at Illinois and won the Illinois Open in 2004. “If I do that no one will know I had a bad start to the year.’’