Luke Shevlin chips onto a green from a sand trap during District One golf at Turtle Creek Golf Club in Limerick October 11, 2016. (Gene Walsh — Digital First Media)
LIMERICK >> Trying to get a visual of the green from the fairway on No. 14, Luke Shevlin jumped straight up as high as he could, his pitching wedge still in-hand.
That brief moment served as a true testament to the jump the West Chester Rustin senior has made both as a player and as a person over the past year.
Nearly 13 months after undergoing a surgical procedure to help cure the scoliosis in his back, Shevlin was right in the heart of the District One boys golf Championship, which concluded on Tuesday afternoon at Turtle Creek Golf Course.
“It’s meant everything just to be here,” said Shevlin Tuesday. “I wasn’t sure how long I would be out or even how well I’d be able to play golf again.”
Aside from the first two weeks of the regular season, Shevlin was forced to miss all of last year during his recovery period.
During that time, he sat. He watched. He waited.
“That was tough,” he admitted. “I tried to convince the doctors to put it off until after the season, but I couldn’t pull it off.”
Now Shevlin’s back.
It’s better than ever.
With 24 screws and two rods in his back and a two-foot scar to show for it, Shevlin thrust himself right into the talk of the tournament, posting a round-low 2-under 70 to hold the opening round lead at Turtle Creek Golf Course on Monday.
Safe to say, plenty were asking themselves “Who?” upon reading his name atop the day one leaderboard.
“No one really knows who I am,” he said. “I hadn’t been able to play many high-level AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) events because of all of this. Nobody really expected anything from me.”
Shevlin finished tied for seventh at the conclusion of day two, good enough to separate himself from the field of 110 players and earn a berth at next week’s Regional Tournament at Golden Oaks Golf Club.
“Monday was probably the best round I’ve ever played,” said Shevlin of his score day one. “I played great the first nine today, but kind of came apart on the back. I don’t know if it was the pressure — all the people watching — but I thought I held my own.”
Admittedly, the biggest adjustment in Shevlin’s game has been his distance off the tee. Since the surgery he’s lost a few yards off his drive and doesn’t have the same range of motion he did in years past.
He also admits, though, his biggest adjustment since the procedure has been his approach on life.
“This whole thing has changed who I am as a person,” he said. “I’m mentally stronger now because of it. It was by far the toughest thing I’ve ever gone through.”
His toughness was on display throughout plenty of the season. Just ask Rustin head coach Joe Paris.
“When we got Luke back this season, he brought a whole new element to our team,” said Paris. “That’s the kind of leader and captain he is. He’s an unbelievable player. He doesn’t lead with his words much, he just goes out there and plays lights-out.
“We were so excited to have him back this season.”
With the Regional Tournament looming and the potential of playing at states on the line, Shevlin could be a far way away from the season’s end.
At this point, it’s pretty clear there isn’t much that will hold him back.