I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy in June of 2008. It’s a rare disease on its own, but my type is so rare that it has never been seen or identified – currently my form is known as “The Kilroy Variant of Distal Myopathy Muscular Dystrophy”. There are so many changes happening in my body, but no one can figure out what gene, or combination of genes, is causing it. It’s this unknown that is the hardest to grasp.
My dream of making the U.S. Ski Team came to a stop after my diagnosis but outside of that everything was going fine; I earned my degree in Electrical Engineering and professionally my career was taking off. But I still had the itch to compete. All my life I had been an elite athlete and the drive was still there.
This is the part in the story where I tell you how much golf has impacted me. I played growing up, but I never took it seriously because I channeled everything I had into skiing. But I became obsessed with the sport. I found that I may not be able to rip turns down the slopes anymore but I could still swing a club. I was going out getting in a quick 9 or hitting balls on the range between classes.
With everything that was going on in my life, all the abnormality, golf was the one thing that felt normal – up until I started throwing the club down the fairway. This wasn’t because of bad temper from hitting a bad shot but because I had already lost the strength in my hands and wrists to grip the club! It finally got to the point when anyone I was playing with would hide behind the cart, a tree, a beer cart, or anything in sight that could shield them, every time I would go to swing.
My dad and I went back to the drawing board. We knew that we could adapt and overcome this disease, but how could we apply that same principle to this scenario? The answer was easy: Velcro.
We both created a golf glove with a Velcro strap attached that would wrap around a club to keep it secured to my hand. Forget game improvement irons, lower CG and adjustable club heads – that single strap has not only allowed me to play but excel at the game of golf.
Golf is a challenging enough game for people without Muscular Dystrophy, let alone those with it. But the greatest thing the sport is that creates a level playing field. When people ask me what’s my handicap it’s the only time I can say 17 and not Muscular Dystrophy. From my Saturday morning foursome to my Thursday night men’s league, I am not Keegan Kilroy the guy with MD. I’m the guy who just whooped your butt 3&2.
I play boring, old man golf. Down the middle off the tee, smart second shot, and a chip and putt for par. My silky, smooth swing drives the bombers crazy as they search for their ball in the woods as I look on from the fairway. The best thing about golf is that there are no pictures on your score card. It’s just numbers, and those don’t lie.
Golf has many parallels to life. In the past ten years I’ve learned to take what the course of life has given me; you can’t control your last shot, but you can control the next one. Bad bounces are a part of life but it’s how you recover – or as my dad and I say, overcome and adapt – that counts.