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UCLA Golfer Is on Course After Crash

Jun, seriously injured in a wreck in which Bruins football player Medlock pleaded guilty to drunk driving, puts doubts about recovery to rest.

May 18, 2006|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

She came in at 12 over par and in 32nd place in the recent NCAA West Regional at Auburn, Wash.

Considering Hannah Jun won the same tournament two years ago, that normally wouldn't be considered high on the list of her golf accomplishments.

But these aren't normal circumstances.

Jun, a junior, was competing in her first tournament of the season for UCLA after coming back from an injury that threatened her career.

On Dec. 10, Jun was a passenger in a truck driven by UCLA football player Justin Medlock that crashed into a callbox on the San Diego Freeway. Medlock, who was later sentenced to three years' probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor drunk-driving charge, was not seriously injured. But when CHP officers reached the scene minutes after the accident, Jun was stuck inside the truck with a fractured vertebra in her neck.

She was hospitalized for five days, her teammates and coaches by her side almost around the clock.

The images from those days stick with them.

"She was strapped down to the table and was in a neck brace," Bruins Coach Carrie Forsyth said. "Although she looked pretty good considering the circumstances, I was very afraid at that moment."

Recalled teammate Suzie Mathews: "It was shocking to see her in such a sad state. But knowing Hannah, she's a fighter and we knew that she'd pull through it."

Just before the accident, Jun had qualified to compete on the Futures Tour, the development circuit for the LPGA. But with her injury, Jun's future was up in the air. "At first, when they tell you the severity of the injury, a lot of thoughts cross your mind," she said.

Quitting wasn't among them.

Confined to her apartment for nearly three months upon her release from the hospital, Jun took on-line courses and eagerly awaited the removal of the halo she was required to wear -- a metal ring attached to her skull with screws connecting to a body brace.

At first, Jun was told she would have the halo for six weeks, but that stretched to 10 and even her most staunch supporters started to question when she might return. "I figured that the odds of her making a full recovery in time to play this season were probably slim," Forsyth said.

The day after the halo was removed, Jun asked the golf team's trainer when she might be able to play.

"He basically told her not to get her hopes up," Forsyth recalled.

Said Jun: "Probably the toughest part was just keeping my neck up all day and not getting tired."

Even so, she returned to practice late last month, progressing quickly enough that Forsyth put her back in the Bruins' lineup at last weekend's regional.

Her first round: a more than respectable 73.

"I couldn't believe it," Forsyth said. "She was two under after 12 holes.... If she didn't double-bogey her last hole, she would have shot under par."

Using a pull cart instead of carrying her clubs, Jun finished with rounds of 80 and 75 and was still enthused even a couple of days afterward.

"Your game doesn't really go anywhere," she said, laughing. "It may get a little rusty, but that's it."

Next up, beginning Tuesday, are the national championships in Columbus, Ohio, where the second-ranked Bruins will be seeking to make UCLA the first school to win 100 NCAA team titles.

The way Jun's play has improved, Forsyth said she wouldn't be surprised to see her finish among the tournament leaders.

A nice thought, but not something that consumes Jun, not anymore.

"In sports, sometimes it's easy to forget the big picture," Jun said. "You get caught up in the numbers, the stats, your scores and how you finish in tournaments. There are goals I want to accomplish and things I want to do in golf, but as far as challenges, there really aren't any for me.

"Of course, I want to go out and do well and see our team win nationals. But in the broader vision of everything, I feel that I'm extremely blessed to be out here. I'm lucky to be even playing."

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