Ziegler overcomes eye surgery
Oregon sophomore strong in Ducks' return to national semis
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – If Robbie Ziegler needed any advice on overcoming adversity all this Oregon sophomore had to do was look over at his coach.
Casey Martin, who lived his dream of playing on the PGA Tour despite a debilitating circulatory disease was the poster child of overcoming obstacles to live your dream.
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Fortunately Ziegler’s plight wasn’t as dire, but there were moments of uncertainty and the wonder if he would be able to play golf again.
After a phenomenal freshman season, where he played in all 13 matches and helped lead the Ducks to the NCAA Championships, Ziegler was ready for a repeat but struggled in the Fall, Then around Thanksgiving he started getting dizzy when standing over his golf ball.
“Once Christmas break came I went home and it got worse,” Ziegler said. “I was messing around one night watching TV and closed my right eye and my left eye was really blurry. It was toast.”
Ziegler thought he needed glasses. He went to his local eye doctor, but he couldn’t find the correct lenses to fit his eye. The doctor sent him to a specialist where a battery of tests were run.
“They found out what was wrong and they rushed me into surgery,” Ziegler said. “ It kind of freaked me out that day when they did all those tests. They told me they had to get up to the hospital right away.”
Ziegler had a detached retina in his left eye. The injury could have happened years before when Ziegler was in high school, playing football and basketball.
“It can happen from getting hit in the head,” Ziegler said. “There wasn’t a specific case where I remember that happening, but it could have been something I didn’t even notice.”
The condition had been lingering long enough that Ziegler’s surgeon told him he was days away from losing his sight in his left eye.
After a surgery that lasted nearly four hours, Ziegler’s recovery was quick.
“The process wasn’t that bad,” Ziegler said. “Two days after the surgery I went to the Rose Bowl to watch the Ducks play. I had an eye patch on and three different drops I had to put in three times a day, but overall it wasn’t that bad.”
Even though he was hitting golf balls a week after the surgery, Ziegler knew he wasn’t going to be ready for the spring and after his struggles in the fall, he thought he should redshirt and went into Martin’s office to talk to his coach.
“I was expressing to him that I wanted to redshirt and that I wasn’t playing that good and he said it was a great idea,” Ziegler said. “We both agreed it was the best thing to do.”
Not being with his team in matches was torturous for Ziegler, but it also gave him a goal.
“It was hard that year to watch the guys have that much success,” Ziegler said. “That year they went to the [national semifinals] as well and I wanted to be a part of it. It definitely lit a fire under me.”
Though fully healed, Ziegler still has issues with the eye. When he turns to his left his sees double, so he had to alter his golf swing a bit.
“I have to close my left eye after I hit,” Ziegler said. “So I start with both eyes open then right at impact I close my left eye and follow the ball with my right.”
A minor adjustment considering what could have happened and now Ziegler is making up for his missed season. He got a spot on the team and helped the Ducks make their second consecutive appearance in the match-play portion of the NCAA championships.
“It really was hard,” Ziegler said. “It was worth the wait. It really got me fired up. I worked my tail off to be ready for this year.”