Montrele Wells was cleared to play golf two weeks ago following knee surgery, but it won’t keep him from playing in the Advocates Professional Golf Association’s tournament Thursday and Friday at World Golf Village’s Slammer & Squire course. The Jacksonville resident, who works as a caddie at TPC Sawgrass, is a member of the tour that’s dedicated to providing greater diversity by developing Black and other minorities for careers in golf. Wells stepped away from is preparation to talk about his dream to play on the PGA TOUR, as well as his short-term goals following surgery.
As told to Don Coble.
I know you’ve only been given the green light to start playing golf again two weeks ago, but how is your game heading into the tournament?
I’ve been working hard on my game for two weeks. I feel like it’s pretty good. Of course, only time will tell because I haven’t been under the gun. I feel like I’m striking the ball pretty well and I’m getting it in the hole pretty well, too. There’s only so much you can see in two weeks. With them [APGA] coming to where I live, it makes sense to put myself in the tournament to see how I’ll do and build off that. I feel good. I’m in a great mindset, and ready to move forward and see what the world offers me, as far as golf. That’s my dream; that’s my passion.
How did you injure your right knee?
On March 17 I was struck by a pickup truck in the back and it caused me to damage my knee. It was in a parking lot at 7 a.m. I was on my way to work at TPC Sawgrass. The truck failed to stop and ran right into the back of me. Because of COVID-19, I had to wait two months to have surgery, which was May 15. I had knee surgery – [orthoscopic] surgery because I had a torn meniscus, lateral and medial. I’ve been out of the game for three months. Being down those first two months because I was hurt, and then being down for an additional month-and-a-half after the surgery. I’m just went fully unrestricted two weeks ago.
Do you have any concerns you may reinjure your knee since your surgery was less than two months ago? Will you be able to trust your body and not think about it?
I did physical therapy before my surgery because we were trying to see if I could heal my knee pain before I had the surgery. The physical therapist told me the stronger I was going in, the stronger you come out. Because of that, my knee hasn’t been as bad as most people’s. I’ve been doing all my exercises, all my work, just like the doctor ordered. I didn’t come out too soon or do anything I wasn’t supposed to do. Because of that, I’m a little further along. I don’t feel like I need to favor my strong knee. I don’t feel like I’ll hurt it. I can feel the difference in strength in both legs. I’m still trying to get the strength back in my right leg. It’s about 85% right now. The only issues I’ve had with it is a little soreness, a little swelling.
There’s a lot of attention nationally on minorities right now. This tour is designed to jumpstart the careers of Blacks and other minorities. Do you have any thoughts on that?
The tour is definitely golf. It’s an organization that set out 11 years ago to bring more diversity to the PGA TOUR. What they did was, they gave a majority of African Americans like myself an opportunity to play high-competitive golf for less than half of what the other tours were charging, and it was for some good purse money, not just to get your game right. It started off having tournaments on the weekend, so it worked out for people like myself who never had sponsors and had a full-time job. I could work and practice during the week, and go and travel on the weekends to play tournaments. The thing I love about the APGA Tour is they all believe in their players. They want to see everybody succeed. They aren’t targeted to one player. They’re not just trying to get one player out. They want the entire bunch of guys who are members of the tour to excel and one day see them on TV. That’s what drove me to the APGA – their genuine passion for the game of golf and for bringing more diversity to the game.
Is being a caddy the only other job you have?
I caddy. I play golf. And I give lessons. That’s what I do as far as jobs. I also play drums at church. I’ve been playing church drums now for almost 20 years.
What are your realistic expectations this week?
Go out and play the best golf that I can and see where it puts me. I’m experienced now, so I know I don’t need to go in and feel like I have to shoot 65-65. Usually that doesn’t end well, especially with me only being back for two weeks. I will trust the process, trust the work I’ve been putting in, the eight-to-10-hour days I’ve been practicing and see what happens during two days of golf. I my mind, do I feel like I can win? If my process works and I go through everything I’ve been working on, absolutely. I feel like I can win, but I’m not putting that pressure on myself.