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Fred Funk

Former PGA Tour golfer Fred Funk will provide one-on-one golf tips and speak on his experience with total knee replacement surgery on Wednesday in Merrillville.

Every man feels it at some point: the back stiffens, knees ache, hips twinge, hamstrings tighten. For International Men's Health Week from June 10 to 16, professional golfer Fred Funk hopes to make sure men understand their treatment options.

Funk, a former PGA Tour golfer who now competes on the PGA Tour Champions, will appear at Innsbrook Country Club in Merrillville on Wednesday for St. Mary Medical Center's Men's Wellness Expo.

After overcoming a knee replacement, multiple hamstring tears and back trouble over the last 10 years, Funk continues to golf competitively. In 2010, he became the first man to win a PGA Tour event after total knee replacement surgery at the JELD-WEN Tradition.

Funk represented the U.S. in the 2004 Ryder Cup and he won eight tournaments on the PGA Tour. Since turning 50 in 2006, he is a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions, including three majors.

Attendees will hear from Funk about how Stryker Orthopedics' mechanized knee-replacement procedure saved his career. They'll also receive one-on-one golf tips and can undergo grip strength, blood pressure and body composition screenings as well as EKG's.

Funk spoke with The Times about how men can stay on the course even through injuries later in life.

Q: Why is men's health and wellness so important to you?

A: I'm a representative of Stryker's team. When I got my knee replaced in '09, I became a walking, talking testimonial for Stryker and getting joint replacements. For me, it gave me my career back. I had no chance of playing again at a high level if I didn't get out of the pain cycle I was in. When I had my knee replaced in November of '09, I basically got my career back.

I do these seminars where we go in and we do a surgeon and I'm kind of the guy who gives a testimonial of my experience. Doctors explain to people who want to come in and learn about it and try to get information so they can not be too scared about it, because they're so apprehensive. And anybody should be, of getting a joint replaced. It should be the last resort.

... I've gone through everything that most of these people are going through prior to getting mine replaced, where you're doing all the modalities of cortisone shots and drugs and things like that to try to get out of the pain. Then you get the joint replaced — and that's why you do it: to try to get out of the pain — and you do.

Q: How were you able to succeed after having the knee replacement?

A: This is a real big part of my message: Your knee, prior to an operation, prior to a joint replacement, is usually very arthritic. … You lose your strength; the knee always hurts. The only way out of that — and fortunately the technology is there today where you can go and get a joint replacement and get out of that. Because now you're going from a bone-on-bone dysfunctional joint that creates a lot of pain and takes you away from the things you want to do to being able to do all those again and not have any pain.

So it's a big step. It's a big decision, because you don't want to go through that operation process, but it's a pretty quick rehab. Especially a hip. A hip is really fast. And for me, a knee, after four weeks I was back hitting balls, which is a little quick. Probably most guys are back within four to six weeks hitting balls. That's not bad at all.

Q: How have you adjusted your game as you've gotten older?

A: Ha! Oh, man. I've had other things hurt. The last three years has been really tough. My back got really tight, and I actually had an operation last summer. I tore both hamstrings just prior to that, and I've been coming back from that. The last two to three years, I've been dealing with other issues, and it has brought my game down.

But I'm on the rebound right now. I started playing again about five weeks ago in tournaments, and I've been improving every week. So hopefully I can get back to being competitive again. Right now, I've been competing, but I haven't been competitive. I'm getting there. I'm working my way back.

Q: What's a common issue you see with amateur golfers that they could fix and really improve their game?

A: Well, I would say 90% of golfers are not capable of really swinging a club the way you would want to, because they're not flexible or strong enough because they really just don't take care of themselves. So they're behind the eight ball to start with, but the No. 1 thing is their setups are so poor that they get in a really bad posture. That creates all sorts of compensations right there.

I try to teach people that the most simple thing to learn is the set-up, and it actually comes from what people do naturally. If you've ever played baseball, or tennis, or racquetball, football, when you get in an athletic position, you're in a reactive position, like a shortstop waiting for a ball to be hit. Your knees are slightly bent, your weight is evenly distributed heel-to-toe, right-to-left, because you've got to go in any direction. I call it a position of movement; a position of balance.

Once you get into that position, that's actually the ideal position for a golf swing. You just hang your hands down, and then from there you try to maintain all those angles while you turn. The act of turning — some people are really flexible, and most people are not. 

... If they just want to work on anything, it's just work 50 yards and in. Get better at chipping, a little better with their putting and try to just get your set-up where you don't have so many compensations. You start hitting the ball a lot straighter. The whole game of golf is just minimize your misses. Are your misses playable? Or are your misses out of bounds, or in the trees or in the rough all day long. That's what it's all about.

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Robbie Weinstein covers Porter County prep sports and Valparaiso University athletics for The Times. You can find the Vanderbilt University and Northwestern University grad posted up on the nearest field of play or in front of the TV.