Gene Sauers held out his forearms, then lifted the bottoms of his golf pants to show the scars. White and red splotches that look alarming, if not painful.
Then he smiles. There is no pain. Not anymore.
“It’s so good to be out here,” he said.
It was a much different story after he let on-course struggles with his golf game get the best of him. Sauers quit the only profession he knew.
Seven years later, in 2011, Sauers discovered dark discoloration spots on his arms and legs. The areas grew. Tests revealed he had Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a rare disorder in which blood vessels get clogged and cause the skin to burn from the inside out.
The affected areas had to be cleared away with excruciating treatments. Skin grafts followed. A lot of them.
He was given a 25 percent chance to survive. Touch-and-go days followed, but he pulled through.
Along the way, Sauers vowed to get back into golf. The three-time PGA Tour winner was done with the sore attitude. Nothing but positivity, from that first tiny practice shot to the last putt each week now as a full-time player on the Champions Tour.
“Hey, I make par, I make birdie, I miss a shot, whatever,” Sauers said. “I’m just living life to its fullest and trying to enjoy myself. I know I came real close to seeing that white light, you know? Real close.”
He’s also inching closer to reaching the top of his golf game.
On Sunday, Sauers shot his second consecutive 7-under-par 65 in the 3M Championship at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. He finished at 20 under for the tournament, good for a payday north of $100,000. Three weeks ago, he lost in a playoff to Colin Montgomerie in the U.S. Senior Open.
“I feel awesome about my game,” Sauers said. “I’m hitting so much better than I did on the regular tour. Good distance control, my putting is coming around. If I could putt half as good as some of these guys, I’d be hard to beat.”
Sauers smiled again.
“You know, I was hard on myself on the regular tour,” he said. “I don’t do that anymore. It’s good to be back out here with my buddies again.”