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Benefield: St. Vincent grad Jessica Maynard is one determined golfer

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Jessica Maynard picked a bad time to get injured, but the 2012 St. Vincent grad then went and picked a super time to make a statement that she’s fully recovered.

It was the summer of 2017 and Maynard, a professional golfer now living in Rowlett, Texas, was playing 18 holes with friends. Sometime during the round, her ball was sitting on a tree root. Maynard swung away.

Immediately, she knew something was wrong.

“I had two tears in the triangular fibrocartilage,” she said. That’s in the wrist, on the pinkie finger side, to you and me.

Maynard, 25, waited six months to have surgery in California. And she kept playing golf.

“I played all the way up until my surgery. I have a really high pain tolerance and I’m stubborn,” she said.

Surgery was in early 2018.

“(It) was only supposed to be an hour and a half, but it took three hours because I had more damage than they thought,” she said.

Then came the cast. It was nearly up to her left armpit.

“They didn’t want me to move my wrist at all, not turn my hand over or anything,” she said.

It was four months of regular rehabilitation before she was given the all-clear to chip and putt. It was five months until she was released to go to the driving range. It was six months before she could actually play a full course.

“It was slow,” she said of her recovery.

But some part of the past year had to have been worth it, because Maynard notched her first win as a pro at the Northwest Women’s Open from June 24-26 in Federal Way, Washington. It was a course with incredibly fast greens that were troublesome to nearly everyone out there, Maynard said.

“It gives me confidence, just the mental aspect,” she said. “It’s pretty big because at this level, everyone is really good at golf. It’s just playing well at the right time.”

And “this level” means the hundreds of pros who are trying to make the LPGA Tour, just like Maynard.

Qualifying School, the three-stage grinder in which golfers must survive cut after cut in order to make the LPGA, starts with Stage 1, Aug. 19-25 in Rancho Mirage. From there, qualifiers are thinned to a group that makes Stage 2 in Venice, Florida, Oct. 12-19. Stage 3, or Q-Series, is Oct. 21-Nov. 2 in North Carolina.

This will be Maynard’s second try at Q school. She said her game wasn’t on the first time around and she didn’t make it out of Stage 1.

“It’s really hard to make it straight to the LPGA,” she said. “My goal this year is at least Stage 2.”

Maynard is currently competing in the Kathy Whitworth Paris Championship in Parks, Texas. She was leading after the first day but by close of play Thursday was tied for 13th.

Maynard came to golf her freshman year at St. Vincent after watching her cousin play in a tournament. The Mustangs didn’t have a girls team competing that fall, so Maynard had to start her career with the boys in the spring.

“It was frustrating. I started off like everyone else does in golf, hitting it like 10 yards and on the ground,” she said.

The good news is that playing with the boys in the spring allowed Maynard to keep playing her priority sport, soccer, in the fall, as well as basketball in the winter. Maynard was an All-Empire second-team selection in soccer her senior year.

But something about golf’s individual aspect appealed to Maynard.

“It’s just you and the golf course,” she said. “If you hit a bad shot, it’s your fault.”

And starting off with the guys’ team was not a deterrence. In fact, it might have sparked her competitive juices.

“I had to play the same tee box the guys did, so it forced me to get good at golf quickly,” she said. “I wouldn’t get on the green in regulation, so I had to chip and putt to make par.”

She made the varsity team as a sophomore.

Maynard went to UNLV for golf, but not to play for the golf team. She got a degree in hospitality with a golf concentration, a program that required extended internships at golf clubs. There was no time for the Rebels’ golf team.

“They wouldn’t allow me to do both,” she said.

So Maynard studied golf and the business of the game while also teeing it up four times a week. She has no regrets about making that call.

“I don’t think me playing on the golf team would make me a better player,” she said.

In the end, Maynard would prefer not to rely on her degree anyway.

“My end game is to play on the LPGA tour,” she said. “I don’t want to use my degree, you know? I’d rather be able to make a living playing golf.”

After nearly a full year of rehab and bringing her game back, Maynard has particular understanding of time and its impact on her game and her goal of making the big tour.

“I will probably go until I run out of money or I don’t think I have a chance,” she said. “I still think I have a chance. If it get to 35, that’s pretty old to make it.”

Maynard turns 26 in November.

“But if I get injured again, where it takes a long time to recover, that will definitely set me back,” she said.

But in the last 18 months, Maynard likely gained a hard-won understanding of injury, recovery and her body’s ability to come back. That information will be priceless as she continues to set goals that she hopes will lead her to nabbing a Tour card.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud, “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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