TULSA, Okla., Aug. 8 — The most sought after guru at the 89th P.G.A. Championship once spent 730 days blindfolded.
Jim Weathers made his living jumping out of airplanes in the middle of the night and once broke his neck when a squat rack fell on him. He does not teach bunker shots or putting techniques, but no teacher at Southern Hills Country Club can boast the client list or mystique that Weathers has.
“No one really knows exactly what I do,” said Weathers, who has been called a shiatsu master, a reflexologist and a healer. “They try to say, ‘Hey, he’s a massage therapist,’ but it’s more than that.”
In the traveling circus that is the PGA Tour, rife with players, caddies and officials hop-scotching the globe, the muscular Weathers is at tournaments 36 weeks during the year. His latest recognition came from massaging Phil Mickelson’s injured left wrist during the Memorial Tournament and the United States Open, but Weathers has worked with as many as 40 players on the Tour.
The son of a Choctaw Indian father and a mother of Irish descent, Weathers took a circuitous route to his occupation. He grew up in Napa Valley, Calif., graduated from high school and joined the Army before becoming a Green Beret.
While parachuting out of an airplane in Japan, Weathers said he clipped a tree on his descent and was injured. Taking the advice of four different people, Weathers visited an 84-year-old healer named Toshi Namiami, who performed reflexology on him.
“She convinced me that she had been waiting for me for 30 years,” Weathers said Wednesday. “And I said, But I’m only 19 years old.
“I ended up studying under her for two years, blindfolded. I’ve been doing this ever since I got out of the military.”
Weathers, 46, practices Reiki — a Japanese technique that channels energy to heal and reduce stress — and uses other Eastern techniques in treating clients. After two decades working in various sports, including Indy car racing, rodeo and the professional water ski tour, he met the PGA Tour player Ted Purdy five years ago at a motivational seminar in San Antonio and has been a fixture on the Tour since.
Phil Mickelson, left, with Jim Weathers, who uses a Japanese technique to help reduce stress.
In 2003, Jerry Kelly, a two-time PGA Tour winner, sought out Weathers at a tournament because he was experiencing pain in a shoulder joint.
“The two bones were rubbing against each other,” Kelly said Wednesday. “I was going to have surgery the next week. I did five sessions with Jim that week and it was the best I had felt on a golf course in over a year. When I went in for the pre-op for the surgery, there was a space between the bones of the AC joint and I didn’t need the surgery anymore. Jim made a believer out of me pretty quick.”
Weathers said: “I do with the muscles of the body what a chiropractor does with the bones. I realign everything like a pulley, which makes them stronger, more alert, and allows more oxygen to the brain. It’s quite an art.”
During a 90-minute session with a golf player, for example, Weathers will have the golfer lie on his stomach, begin at his feet and work up to his head. The golfer will then turn over to his back, and Weathers will work up again.
On Wednesday, Weathers and Kelly did a shorter, 15-minute session, where Weathers squeezed his shoulders and massaged the back of the neck with rapid chops with his hands.
“The C3 and the C4 are going nuts,” Kelly said of the warmth he felt on his spine as Weathers worked.
“The body is not built to do what we do with the back, the twisting and the loading and the releasing,” Kelly said. “It’s an unnatural motion. Jim has an energy that has healing potential. That’s just the way it is. He’s intuitive.”
At Oakmont in June, where the rough was thick, Mickelson said Weathers was never busier.
“The first practice round on Monday, Jim Weathers had six other appointments, people hurting their ribs, their back, their wrists,” Mickelson said.
Weathers, who lives in Boise, Idaho, said he had trimmed his client list to 10 golfers, including Mickelson, Purdy and Kelly. He said he occasionally gets calls from athletes competing in other sports leagues and, when he has the time, he offers his services.
“Even the White Sox called me,” Weathers said. “I went and worked on them and they won six out of the next seven. It looks like I need to go back and work on them again.”