Sulman Raza makes pro debut at U.S. Open after qualifying with 8 staples in leg


So much could’ve stopped Sulman Raza from competing at this week’s U.S. Open, and an incident that occurred recently sticks out the most.

“Anything could’ve happened honestly,” Raza said. “I’m just glad nothing serious happened.”

Raza, a former standout at the University of Oregon, works the proverbial 9-to-5 job as (mainly) an embroidery specialist for Portland-based Jones Sports Company, which sells golf bags and apparel. That’s where he was exactly two weeks ago, helping as the company moved to a new warehouse in Tigard, Ore.

There was a gap between the edge of the unloading truck and the warehouse. As they were finishing up, Raza went to go grab boxes from the truck when his left foot found that gap and he fell right through it. In the process, his left leg caught something and a two-inch gash in his left shin emerged.

“At first it just felt like a bad carpet rash, and I pulled my leg up and I just see muscle tissue and I can kind of see my bone a little bit,” Raza said. “It was just kind of freaky.”

And with his U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Portland just five days later, Raza did have a pang of panic.

“I just thought in that moment, like, ‘Wow, this is probably really serious. I can’t probably be playing on this when I go qualify,’” Raza said. “I was really worried.”

Fortunately, it all worked out.

Raza went to a local hospital immediately and had eight staples put in that very day. He went back to work the following day but waited until Friday to start swinging a golf club again.

Raza’s left leg after staples were put in.

Initially, he swung more off his back foot and spread out his front foot toward his target in order to ease the twisting of his left leg during the swing and thus take pressure off it.

By Sunday, though, Raza felt fine and could hit the ball normally. The following day, he went out and played 36 holes of sectional qualifying with the area around the staples covered by athletic wrap and had no problems as he passed through.

Less than a week later, he was on his way to Shinnecock.

Raza had thought about getting the staples removed before traveling to the U.S. Open, but his doctor advised him it would be too early to take them out and he could play just fine with them in.

“The last thing I would need is to be playing and (the gash) reopen,” Raza said.

So Raza will be playing all week with the staples in and that athletic wrap around the gash in order to protect that area. He’s also been taking ibuprofen to deal with any pain that comes up.

Still, he’s enthused to feel back to around 100 percent.

Raza’s athletic wrap on the left leg.

Raza, 24, is also certainly excited to be at his first major championship, which will also serve as his first start since turning pro.

The Eugene, Ore., native made the winning putt to secure the Ducks a national title at home in 2016. After some senior-year struggles, Raza fought back and had Oregon on the verge of back-to-back national titles.

But he remained an amateur after finishing his college career last spring. Raza played in a number of amateur events last summer and came to feel burnt out on competitive golf.

Looking for his calling, Raza helped out the Oregon men’s golf coaching staff this season by serving as an intern assistant. He did so for the fall and into the early spring but realized coaching was not for him.

Through former teammate Max Carter, Raza would come into contact with Jones and got the job a few months ago. Raza moved from Eugene to Beaverton, Ore., where he lives with his godfather, Amir Fazal.

Raza remained an amateur through qualifying but decided after making it to the U.S. Open that it would’ve been “a little foolish” not to turn pro considering the opportunities at a major. To wit, a couple of local companies have pitched in a bit to get their logos sponsored by Raza this week.

There’s a potential long-term gain here, too. Raza has become re-energized about competitive golf after last summer’s burnout. He wasn’t interested about playing in smaller pro events then, but he is opening up to the possibility now.

Raza is not totally sure where he stands on life as a professional golfer, noting he’d have support in funding (and his bosses at Jones have been supportive of a pro golf endeavor) but isn’t entirely sure yet if he’s enamored with the pro grind.

“It’s more about if I will enjoy this sort of lifestyle,” Raza said. “For me lately, it’s been kind of nice to take a few days off and relax and not really worry about golf.”

Obviously that changes this week at Shinnecock Hills. But Raza is relaxed despite major championship pressure.

A decision about pro golf or staying in his current path looms. For now, though, Raza is simply looking toward the magic of playing in a major.

“I just want to take this week, enjoy it and see how it goes,” Raza said. “You don’t get to do this very often. I’m just trying to soak it all in.”

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