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After South Carolina team van crash, Nathan Franks details accident and injury that will sideline him through SECs

It’s safe to say Nathan Franks is never going to forget about the Schenkel Invitational.

Sure, he won the tournament for his second victory in three months as a junior on the South Carolina golf team. But the trip home is what’s going to be the most memorable.

The Gamecocks’ team van t-boned a car that ran a red light on a highway in Waynesboro, Georgia, about an hour and a half from Columbia, South Carolina, on its way home from the tournament Sunday. Sitting in the passenger seat, Franks initially thought he was just sore from the collision. Turns out, he has a hairline fracture on his right elbow, and South Carolina’s best player will be out through at least the SEC Championship.

“I knew I was sore, but I didn’t think there was really anything wrong,” Franks told Golfweek. “But when I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t straighten it.”

Outside of whiplash, there were no other major injuries to players or coaches in the van. South Carolina was not at fault, per the police report.

South Carolina’s Nathan Franks. (Photo: South Carolina Athletics)

Franks recalls the accident vividly.

The team was close to pulling off into a gas station to get some donuts about 100 yards past the intersection where the accident occurred.

“We had a green light,” Franks said. “This lady just kept going through the red light and tried to turn left. She pulled straight into us, and then we crashed into a Georgia Power truck.”

Gamecocks assistant Brady Gregor was driving the sprinter van, which included eight passengers in total. Gregor’s quick thinking to swerve right avoided a direct collision, but Gregor said he thinks the power truck also saved the van from going off an 8-foot embankment.

Franks’ parents, who were attending the tournament in Statesboro, Georgia, pulled up to the scene shortly after the accident happened. After determining everything was OK, they loaded most of the equipment into their car while some players loaded into it and others into head coach Bill MacDonald’s car, who was driving a couple miles ahead of the van.

Upon getting back to campus, Franks went through a normal routine, including unloading clubs and gear, before going to bed. He and others underwent a wellness evaluation.

The next day is when he found out about the elbow injury. He would be stuck in a sling for a month, being sidelined through at least the SEC Championship.

All of this coming in a stretch of the best golf of his life.

“Obviously I’m not happy about it,” Franks said. “You work so hard your whole life and then to be told you can’t do anything for a month. At the same time, I can’t beat myself up about it. It’s not something I was expecting or hoping for, but all I can do is stay positive.”

The crash happened two years and two days after the University of the Southwest crash in West Texas that killed seven members of the golf teams, including their coach.

Franks said he’s encouraged the injury isn’t a long-term one, and he’s hopeful to return by NCAA Regionals to help the Gamecocks make a push for the NCAA Championship. But even he knows he’ll have to be patient and not push anything to risk further injury or prolonging the healing process.

Being a right-hand dominant person, Franks said it was difficult trying to take notes in class Monday night, and he’s having to learn to brush his teeth and do other previously minuscule tasks with his left hand. Even driving is hard, from having to change the gear and turn the keys reaching across his body.

However, the temporary difficulty is a far cry from what could have happened.

The trophy survived the crash, as Franks put it back in its box before heading home. Safe to say there’s going to be plenty of memories when looking at it in the future.

“I’ll definitely never forget it,” Franks said. “Played great and the bonding we had as a team. And you’re never going to forget a car wreck, are you? Especially with it all happening in the same day.

“It’s not the best memory to have, but it’s a day I will always remember.”

Source Link : https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2024/03/20/south-carolina-team-van-crash-injuries-nathan-franks/

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