locker room

Overcoming obstacles

Upcoming Iowa Amputee Golf Tournament attracts participants from across the United States and Canada

Craig Lonning describes it as “one day” — a moment in time that changed his life forever. Twenty-four hours. That’s the time it took for Lonning’s world to be turned upside down. Recalling his days as a junior on the baseball team at Roosevelt High School, Lonning said, “my knee started hurting — I could run but couldn’t bend it to pick up the ball.” A day later, doctors diagnosed Lonning with bone cancer in the thigh. Soon after, his leg was amputated. While Lonning has successfully overcome the loss of limb with help from a prosthetic leg, his goal now is to reach out to other amputees. His chance will come again at the upcoming annual Iowa Amputee Golf Tournament.
“In the big picture, there aren’t many amputees out there, so this is a great event to bring us together,” said Lonning, an Iowa Amputee Golf Association board member. “Our main goals are to develop camaraderie and encouragement through a friendly competition.”

The 19th annual Iowa Amputee Golf Tournament is schedule for July 9 to 11 at Willow Creek Golf Course, 140 Army Post Road, in West Des Moines. The tournament, which attracts participants from across the United States and Canada, has been held at Willow Creek Golf Course and Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny.

The event begins Friday with a scramble pairing amputees and non-amputees in a four-person best-shot tournament. The Saturday-Sunday tournament is solely intended for amputees, and officials are expecting as many as 40 golfers to participate. Awards will be given for an overall champion, division winners and flight winners. Notably, Nick Ackerman, who lost both his legs below the knees due to a life-threatening form of bacterial meningitis when he was 1 year old, participates in the tournament each year. Ackerman won the 174 lbs. Division III national championship in 2001 while wrestling at Simpson College. He beat Nick Slack, who was ranked No. 1 in the country and had won 60 matches in a row. Ackerman now works in Davenport for American Prosthetics and Orthotics, the tournament’s sponsor.

As executive vice president of American Prosthetics and Orthotics, Rod Cheney sees firsthand the success that amputees can have in his office and on the links. His company has sponsored the tournament for 15 years.

“I come from a golfing family, and this is our business,” said Cheney, whose company has eight offices statewide. “We make the prosthetics, but we’re also golf enthusiasts, too. And it gives us a lot of satisfaction helping people compete. It really fits our niche.”

While the tournament has a wide age range of participants, the association also focuses on touching youth’s lives for years to come. Since 1999, the association has awarded scholarships to eligible Iowans seeking post high school education from accredited institutions. Eligibility for the scholarship is limited to Iowa residents who are amputees or the immediate family member of an amputee. Over the past 10 years, the association has awarded more than $26,000 in scholarships and plans to give out eight more during this year’s tournament.

“Golf is a sport that anyone can play his or her whole life,” Lonning said. “Technology has changed so much that amputees are now able to do many of the things anyone else can. And it’s great to see and be able to experience that.”

Locker Room note: Deadline for the 2010 Iowa Amputee Golf Tournament is Saturday, June 26. The tournament will be a noon shotgun start, and participants must report by 11:30 a.m. Entry fee is $60 per contestant, which includes green fee, shared cart, one lunch and prizes. To register, call Craig Lonning at 255-6587. CV


Caption: The 19th annual Iowa Amputee Golf Tournament will be held July 9 to 11 at Willow Creek Golf Course in West Des Moines.

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