Caroline Inglis thought she might never play professional golf again. She was in a nearly two-year long recovery from a back injury and at times, the outlook seemed bleak.
This week Inglis, now a Vancouver resident, will tee it up in the Cambia Portland Classic at Columbia Edgewater Country Club. For the first time since 2016, Inglis will play her home course in an LPGA event, which was condensed to a three-day tournament starting Friday.
“I’m so excited to finally be back out here,” said Inglis, who was on the Symetra Tour in 2017 and injured during 2018 and 2019’s Portland Classic events. “It’s going to be super comfortable sleeping in my own bed.”
One of the most decorated amateur female golfers in Pacific Northwest history, Inglis, 26, had reached the top of her sport. She was competing in the LPGA and making cuts regularly until August 2018, when she first injured her back. She tried pushing through with physical therapy and injections but eventually, it was too much.
Doctors said she herniated a disc and needed surgery. Inglis missed the entirety of the 2019 season.
“I had to start all over again,” she said. “It was really tough, not only physically but mentally. There were points I thought I was done with golf.”
Inglis couldn’t swing a club for more than a year. She had to relearn even the most basic things that were ingrained in her from two decades of golf.
Inglis remains cautious with her injury. She’s never going to be pain free while playing golf, she says.
“The injury is so delicate; it’s something I’m always mindful of,” Inglis said.
This year, Inglis made her return to the LPGA Tour on July 31 in Florida. She played five consecutive weeks, including a trip to Scotland. The back held up.
“I think I was really lucky to have such a great support system,” said Inglis, who earlier this month celebrated her one-year wedding anniversary to her husband, Taylor Klopp. He will caddy for her this week. “I just had to keep everything in perspective. There are people with a lot worse injuries.”
Inglis has made four straight cuts, with a season-high 22nd-place finish at the AIG Women’s Open last month. Each week, there is improvement in her game and her feel around the course continues to grow, she says. Club selection and putting on different grasses have been some of the more difficult things to remember how to do well, she said.
Inglis knows the importance of success this year. It is about more than her.
Before the season, Inglis partnered with Cambia Health Solutions to raise money for palliative care for Oregon Health and Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute. Inglis will donate $10 and Cambia will add $250 for every birdie she makes on tour.
The cause is particularly important to Inglis, whose father died from leukemia in 2013.
“When my dad was battling leukemia, he had an excellent palliative care team that made the whole cancer journey much easier on our family,” Inglis said. “I feel very fortunate to be able to give back this year.”
Her 44 birdies thus far have raised $11,440.
Inglis — a Churchill High graduate from Eugene — was Oregon’s third prep golfer to win three state golf titles; she won a fourth but signed an incorrect scorecard and was disqualified.
In 2015 as a college junior, she became the University of Oregon’s first golfer to win a Pac-12 individual championship. She turned professional after graduating Oregon in 2016.