Angie Rizzo left the University of Oregon in 2000 wanting to be a smash success in women's golf. Three years later, she's had more smash than success.
Two car accidents in a 13-month period left her body in pain and her LPGA plans off course.
'Golf is hard on your back, anyway,' she says. 'If I didn't love the game, it would have been real easy to give up right then.'
In April 2002, shortly after leaving the LPGA Office Depot Championship, her car was rear-ended on a Los Angeles freeway. 'I strained all my muscles from my neck to my tailbone,' she says.
For nearly four months, she didn't swing a club.
Then, in May of this year, while leaving a Futures Tour event in New Mexico, a semitrailer tried to make a sudden, wide right turn from the left-hand lane. The truck hit Rizzo's car, which was in the right-hand lane. Her car was totaled, and she came away with whiplash in her neck and shoulders.
Rizzo, 25, credits Tom Boers, a physical therapist in Columbus, Ga., with helping her mend. 'He's worked with Freddie Couples, Davis Love III, Dottie Pepper and other golfers,' she says. 'Before I started seeing him, I couldn't walk 18 holes.'
Rizzo is competing again, trying to resurrect her swing and stamina. Closing rounds of 69 and 68 gave her an encouraging 20th-place finish in a Futures tourney two weeks ago in Connecticut. She received an exemption in the LPGA's Sybase Big Apple Classic in New Rochelle, N.Y., last week but missed the cut. She was out of it after an opening round of 11-over par 82 but followed it with a decent 74.
The second round was typical. She was flirting with a par round through 12 holes.
'I get through 11 holes and my back starts to get tired,' she says, 'and I can't make a real good turn.'
Her rehab workouts have had one positive effect on her game ÑÊshe's gained about 20 yards on her drives and is belting them about 270, and her irons are flying five to seven yards farther.
'Putting is harder than swinging. I can't practice putting for hours like I used to,' she says.
She was encouraged and inspired watching the recent U.S. Women's Open at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, where unknown Hilary Lunke won a playoff against up-and-coming Angela Stanford and veteran Kelly Robbins.
Rizzo grew up playing Minnesota junior golf against Lunke and competed against her in the Pacific-10 Conference, with Lunke playing for Stanford. 'And Angela is my best friend,' Rizzo says. 'So it was tough to choose who I wanted to win.'
Rizzo, no relation to LPGA pro Patti Rizzo, will play in a Futures event in Syracuse, N.Y., this week and hopes to play in a couple of LPGA tournaments in August. She also hopes that the Portland sponsors invite her to the LPGA Safeway Classic, which is Sept. 26-28 at Columbia Edgewater Country Club.
Realistically, her focus is on the LPGA qualifying school in October and the chance to gain a tour card.
'I'm just trying to get physically and mentally stronger,' she says. 'My back still isn't 100 percent, but I'm making progress.'
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