Bryson DeChambeau is a shot outside the lead after shooting 5 under 67 in Round 2 at the Detroit Golf Club in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, July 3, 2020.

Detroit Free Press

Scott Stallings couldn’t stop drinking. Pepper.

He thumped double-digit soft drinks daily, chewed on unhealthy foods and did not want to exercise. In 2015, his testosterone level was out of line; he couldn’t sleep; he lost all his energy. He was diagnosed with acute adrenal fatigue and needed surgery.

His life was in danger.

“Well, I’m just happy to tell you that you won’t die,” a UCLA endocrinologist told him. “No one is in my office unless it’s an option.”

It was his awakening. All this in the middle of a three-month suspension from the PGA Tour, his body turned from 230 pounds and 30% body fat to a ripped 185 pounds and 10% body fat.

Stallings, 35, may be the biggest comeback story at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit this weekend. After opening as the first round, he led a 1-under par 71 on Friday to tie for 21st at 8 under 136. He is seeking his first Tour victory since 2014 – before turning his life around with Knoxville-based physical therapist Adam Kerley.

[ Rocket Mortgage Classic leaderboard: Round 2 scores and updates from Detroit Golf Club ]

“We’ve had a fantastic trip together,” Kerley said. “He was super talented and had great success early in his career, which was fantastic, but he didn’t connect the dots for how he treated his body and how it would affect his longevity.”

Stallings and Kerley started working together on a consistent basis a year after Stallings won the Greenbrier Classic. In June 2012, he called Kerley, who had just arrived on an aircraft, from the Travelers Championship in Connecticut. He could not feel his foot; his legs felt weak.

Stallings did not attend and went home to see a doctor. He was diagnosed with a herniated disc and needed surgery, but Kerley told Stallings, 27 at the time, to pump the brakes. Instead of rushing, he planned the appointment at least three or four weeks out.

He planned his surgery for July 20, a Friday during the True South Classic at the Annandale Golf Club in Mississippi. After weeks of physical therapy sessions three days a day, Stallings found his way and went to the tournament: finishing on 24 sub par 278 with 64’s in the second and third round to win the True South Classic.

“We were able to avoid a disastrous situation early in the process,” Kerley said, “and it told us both that we were planning to do something together. What really evolved from that was the awareness that he needed to make some changes.”

[ Brian Stuard uses sharp iron play to move into contention at Rocket Mortgage Classic ]

Stallings never had the surgery and is no longer irritated by back problems. Two years later, Kerley began traveling to tournaments with him.

But it was all downhill from there. He missed the cut 14 times in 27 events in 2013 and 16 times 28 next year. In 2014, he won the Farmers Insurance Open with a 9-under par 279, but his second highest goal was tied for 32nd place.

He never changed his lifestyle habits.

Stallings started taking DHEA, a steroid that boosts testosterone production. Later he learned that the topic was banned by the Tour and considered quitting the sport because of his guilt. He reported himself and took a three-month suspension.

Getting away from golf was a blessing in disguise.

“He had really taken a physical turn down, really struggled for energy,” Kerley said, adding Stallings testosterone levels were in the 90s – it should have been between 500-800 nanograms per deciliter. “The situation that had developed in his body had come to a point to put him in an inner state that was not good.”

[ Matthew Wolff’s blistering birdie streak ties him for lead at Rocket Mortgage Classic ]

Stallings called his wife Jennifer on her way home from the scary doctor’s visit and apologized for how he treated his body. He promised he would change. Kerley said he is “nowhere near that guy anymore and will never be again.”

He trained with CrossFit champion Rich Froning, described as “Michael Jordan from CrossFit.” They attended Tennessee Tech together in the mid-2000s. While golf stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he found a quarantine training group that included UFC fighter Scott Holtzman and Washington Nationals catcher Yan Gomes.

Stallings completed two of the three events since the golf reboot. He tied for 48th at RBC Heritage and tied for sixth in the Travelers Championship with a 15-under-par 265. Right now he is well on his way to improving again at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

“The sport we play is forgetting what you’ve done and looking forward to the next,” Stallings said after he shot 65 in the first round. “Same with good, bad pictures and everything indifferent. Nice to play well today but go out and do it again tomorrow. “

At last year’s first tournament in Detroit, he settled for 64th place.

A 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic win, his fourth Tour victory and first in six years, would validate his transformation.

“On the whole, we have appreciated the gift we have in our bodies,” Kerley said, “and he is a fantastic steward of that responsibility.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at Detroit Free Press. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.