On the first hole of the first tournament of the season, Maize South’s Wells Padgett faced an awkward approach shot at Auburn Hills Golf Course.
The ball was sitting well above his feet and as the club struck the ball, his right knee collapsed and Padgett fell.
“I felt a pop and I for sure thought it was my ACL,” Padgett said.
Against the wishes of his coach, Steve Martling, Padgett played the rest of the hole and was the only one in his group to make a par.
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But his knee gave out again on the second hole and Padgett was forced to withdraw.
The original diagnosis was a slight meniscus tear, which would keep him out six to eight weeks — all but ending his season.
But after going through physical therapy, it was determined he had just stretched the ligaments. Padgett returned three weeks later and his knee now feels normal.
As he and the rest of the Mavericks head to Salina Municipal Golf Course on Monday for a Class 5A regional tournament, Padgett can’t help but feel lucky.
“The thought of being out for the year scared me a lot,” Padgett said. “Prayers were answered, though.”
The way Padgett quickly rebounded from his injury shouldn’t be a surprise.
Nothing ever seems to faze the sophomore, who finished two strokes out of first at last year’s state tournament.
“Wells is an extremely tough young man,” Martling said. “He is a competitor who keeps his composure. He is willing to work with whatever happens. If it’s bad, then it’s gone and he comes back with something positive.”
A classic example of Padgett’s resilience came at the AV-CTL Division II tournament.
Martling was following Padgett as he played the tight par-4 eighth hole at Winfield’s Quail Ridge. After a couple of mishaps, Padgett ended with a triple bogey.
“I came up to him and said, ‘It’s OK, Wells, come back and get ’em on the next hole,’” Martling said. “He goes, ‘Don’t worry, Coach, I got this.’ He ends up shooting 73 and winning the tournament.”
In last year’s state tournament, Padgett struggled at the start of his round; playing the first four holes in 5 over. He finished with a 74.
While he knows a better start could have given him the state title, he will never let himself speculate.
“I used to get down on myself, but I think experience has helped that,” Padgett said. “I don’t change how I think about a tournament just because it’s in the postseason. My goal is to win all of them.”