Fred Funk plays through stabbing pain in upper back to finish tied for sixth at Senior Players

Fred Funk took his tee shot on the 16th hole Sunday at the Constellation Senior Players Championship, and the stabbing pain between his shoulder blades and through his ribs didn’t relent.

After his next shot on the par-5 hole, he walked to the side and “bawled.”

“I haven’t cried in the middle of a round in a long time,” Funk said, “I was just trying to get done.”

The Takoma Park native said he would’ve withdrawn from the event at Caves Valley Golf Club if he weren’t playing in front of a local crowd. Instead, he pushed through the pain, stemming from a rib injury he suffered about three weeks ago, and tied for sixth place at 11-under par.

“A lot of the swings on the back nine, it felt like not one knife but a row of knives running in my shoulder blades and then my midback,” Funk said. “I came in this week not sure whether I could play, but I really wanted to come in because it was home, and it’s a big tournament.”

Funk endured the injury while doing an “ab roller” exercise, and it forced him to withdraw from the American Family Insurance Championship in late June. He also missed the U.S. Senior Open two weeks ago for his oldest son’s wedding, though he said he would’ve rested his injury anyway.

Throughout this week, Funk worked with the on-site chiropractor because he hadn’t played to his standards or felt fully healthy while practicing in Florida.

And he said his performance through four rounds in Owings Mills reflected that “back and forth” preparation. Entering the final day, Funk countered his 15 birdies with 11 bogeys.

While his injury flared up after an aggressive swing on the fourth hole Sunday — Funk said he couldn’t breathe during many of his attempts afterward — the former Maryland golf player and coach managed five birdies, including four on the back nine.

He doesn’t believe he risked further injury because the pain likely comes via muscle spasms, so Funk was pleased with his grit to finish the local event he called “really special” earlier in the week.

“By far the worst I’ve felt all week,” Funk said. “Any other round, if I wasn’t playing well and trying to just post whatever I could post and stay in the top 20, I would’ve withdrawn.”

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