Las Vegas, Nevada (May 26, 2010)–Golf has always been a numbers game. And no one may know that better than Las Vegas golfer John Riegger, who thought in December his career might be over. The 46-year-old golfer, who lives and plays in Las Vegas, earned his second Nationwide Tour title last weekend with a victory in the rain-shortened 2010 Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C. It was all in the numbers, with a big number being one major shoulder surgery.–By Bill Bowman and Brian Hurlburt.
Some of the numbers are impressive. Riegger, who has been battling shoulder and rib injuries for years, pocketed $99,000 for the victory, jumping him to No. 10 on the Nationwide Tour money list and put him in great position to earn his PGA Tour card for the 2011 season. He’s earned $126,709 this year and made the cut in five of eight events. His rounds of 66-64-63 vaulted him to 20-under-par for the three days and broke the previous tournament record. Those rounds also gave him a five-stroke lead heading into the final round which was eventually rained out. “A win’s a win,” Riegger, told PGATOUR.com. “I’m not going to complain. I would have rather had it with a normal routine today and played. I knew what what the forecast was for today. I’ve been through this before so I was mentally prepared for whatever Mother Nature threw at us today.”
Riegger is one of many Las Vegas tour pros who plays and practices at the two TPC Las Vegas golf courses, including the resort TPC Las Vegas. Riegger also practices some at the private DragonRidge Country, which is located near his Henderson home. But he is probably the only one who thought his career was over as recently as December, 2009, when he had major rotator cuff surgery in Las Vegas, performed by Dr. Andrew Welch. Riegger, who withdrew after two rounds of the 2009 PGA Tour Q School and had the surgery two days later, was in very low spirits during the holidays. "I really didn't know whether I was going to be able to play again, and that was difficult," Riegger said by phone two days following his recent win. "I wasn't supposed to play golf for several months, if ever, but I beat that prognosis and was back playing six weeks after the procedure. The biggest key to everything is that I had the surgery, and then when I truly realized it was a success and I would be able to do what I have done my entire life. Also, my attitude is very good, I am appreciative of the opportunity and I am just trying to be the best person I can be on and off the golf course."
Riegger’s had his share of ups and downs during his career. The ups included earning his PGA Tour card for the first time in 1992 through Q-School. He’s earned more than $2.2 million on the PGA Tour with his best finish being a tie for 5th in the 2006 John Deere Classic where his final round of 7-under-par 64 was his career best. The lows mostly centered around the 2003 season where a torn rib cage muscle and a shoulder injury limited his golf. His comeback was buoyed by a win in the 2007 LaSalle Bank Open, a victory that once again helped him secure a PGA Tour card. He had three top 10 finishes that season and wound up 19th on the Nationwide Tour with more than $220,000.
Now Riegger, who works out and is eating well in hopes of staying healthy, is looking forward to cementing his status for exemption on the 2011 PGA Tour, and believes he can still compete with anyone when feeling good and playing in tournaments on the right golf courses. "I know that I can still play this game and be successful against anyone," said Riegger. "I realize that I am at a disadvantage on some of the longer courses against these young guys who hit it so far, but if you put me on a golf course where you have to hit the fairways and manage the game, I can play with anyone." Now it looks like Riegger will get another shot at the big time, but he also will have several more chances in 2010 on the Nationwide circuit.