Perhaps the two toughest words for Palm Desert’s Nicole Castrale to ever say are, “I’m hurt.”
Not that she hasn’t had practice at saying that phrase. Castrale, from Palm Desert and a veteran of two Solheim Cups on the LPGA, has played through pain time and again, through four shoulder surgeries and the return from giving birth to her first child. Stubborn and focused, Castrale never wants to let anyone know that her physical status could be hurting her ability to play top level golf.
So when Castrale does say “I’m hurt,” you know it has to be something fairly big. And that’s the case now with a torn labrum in her right hip.
Castrale is coming forward with word of her hip issue only now because she felt like she needed to be honest with U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon. Castrale has been in the mix for a potential third Solheim Cup berth throughout the year, but as the hip has grown worse and her performances have suffered, Castrale wanted Mallon to know the truth.
Of course you wouldn’t have known there was a hip problem Thursday as Castrale hammered her way around the Old Course at St. Andrews to a 5-under 67. That made Castrale the leader or co-leader for most of the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open, until her close friend Morgan Pressel finished with a 66.
Before heading to St. Andrews, Castrale talked about the hip, hoping to keep the injury quiet until after the British Open and the announcement of the U.S. Solheim Cup. But now that she’s so close to the lead in a major and again in the Solheim Cup mix, the injury news is out in the open.
Castrale says she and her team first had some idea there was a problem with the hip as long ago as December. But she fired out to a hot start in the season and the hip wasn’t a problem on the course. It was stopping her from working out, so she said her physical conditioning started to suffer.
After she missed the cut in the Kraft Nabisco Championship back in April, Castrale had an MRI on the hip that revealed the nature of the injury. Some players might have shut it down and had season-ending surgery right then. But Castrale said she was still playing well and without much pain on the course. And there were Solheim Cup points to be earned. Castrale wanted to get back on the U.S. team, after missing the 2011 team because of reconstructive shoulder surgery and her pregnancy with her first child.
But as the summer has worn on, the pain in the hip grew worse and began impacting her play. At the Wegman’s LPGA Championship she said she was struggling to walk 18 holes, but still finished 53rd. She made the cut in the LPGA event in Arkansas two weeks later, but has since missed three cuts, including in the U.S. Women’s Open.
Asked if she put together a career week and actually won the Women’s British Open this week, Castrale said she had already told Mallon that she would absolutely play on the Solheim Cup. Who knew when she said that before flying to Scotland that she would produce a great first round at the Home of Golf.
With or without the Solheim Cup, Castrale has a set plan. She will play LPGA events in Canada, Portland and then the Evian Masters in France, as long as the hip allows. Then she will fly to Nashville for surgery that will have her out for four to six months, meaning she will miss the later-season Asian swing.
But with rehab work and work on her game with her long-time friend and once again her teaching pro Bill Harmon, Castrale’s plan is to be ready for the early season Asian swing on the LPGA next February.
Who knows, with a few more good rounds, maybe Castrale will have the Women’s British Open trophy to gaze as she recovers from her surgery.