As Tough As Nails (Screws)
The doctor didn’t order a resilient amateur career, but that’s exactly what Jamie Freedman has accomplished
By Jordan Perez
A year of no physical activity. That was a tougher pill for a 13-year-old Jamie Freedman to swallow than the pain meds after her spinal fusion. The golfer, gymnast and dancer suffered from a 63-degree curvature of her spine, with chronic pain an everyday reality. After Freedman spent a year in a hard back brace for 23 hours a day, her scoliosis became so severe that surgery became a necessity.
“I don’t know too much about golf, but I don’t know if you’ll be able to play after this,” her surgeon cautioned. Two rods and 20 screws later, Freedman began her recovery, learning to walk again the same day of her operation.
The antsy teen obeyed for two weeks, but she couldn’t bear the thought of her clubs sitting untouched in the family garage any longer. Home alone, the teenager snuck into the garage and started swinging, much to the horror of her dad, David, once he arrived home from work.
“Look, Dad, I can swing a club!” she said as she demonstrated. All she needed to do was turn a little bit, she reasoned. She recalls her father almost falling out of his chair in complete shock.
“I just didn’t like that some old man told me I couldn’t do it,” Jamie said. Six months later, she was cleared to resume playing junior golf — as she had since she was 4 years old. The product of a man she lovingly calls a “crazy golf dad,” Freedman had a baby crib that was decorated with golf clubs while Tiger Woods and LPGA tournaments played on the TV. At age 4, Freedman was competing in events around South Florida.
Jamie Freedman at the Mid-Am
This week Freedman continued her resilient amateur career by grabbing a spot in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Fiddlesticks Country Club in Fort Myers, Fla. Hers is a name you might not recognize off the top of your head, but appearances at events such as the Arnold Palmer Cup in 2018 as well as USGA starts in recent years solidified her as a top-level amateur. A distinct, long swing from her 5-foot stature also helps her stand out.
“I didn’t have to change much,” Freedman says of her post-op game. She relies heavily on ball-striking, a skill that has improved as she has transitioned into a fruitful Mid-Amateur career.
She was pain-free after her surgery and played four years of high school golf, winning the Florida state championship and the individual district championship as a senior. Her talents took her to Nova Southeastern, where she became the No. 2-ranked DII player. She landed on the national college golf radar after a standout senior season. Despite her talents, her heart was set on law school, though she never gave up on golf.
“There’s always that one shot that keeps bringing you back, the one thing you want to improve on,” she says.
The morning of her round-of-64 match, Freedman was on edge, occupied by the incoming results of the Florida Bar exam—which she passed. When it was time for golf, she passed her second test of the day with flying colors. She defeated 2021 quarterfinalist Dawn Woodard 3 and 2 to advance to the round of 32, but fell to Amanda Jacobs the next morning. Jacobs won the first three holes, and although the match tightened up on the back nine, Freedman’s late push wasn’t enough.
The love of the game is apparent, but family also brings her back, as she, her sister and parents all played. When she lost her mother, Sheila, in early 2022, Jamie grew even closer to the game. Her first U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur appearance, in 2021, was the last time her mother got to see her play. This return trip gave the tournament a special new meaning: “As long as my work lets me, I’ll be here for sure.”