BLUFFTON – Quite regularly, Evan Mathias has people tell him that hes an inspiration.
On Saturday afternoon, a few more than usual gave him praise; he had just shot a 10-over 82 in the Norwell Sectional at Timber Ridge Golf Club, earning a spot in regionals as an individual.
Mathias didnt see the feat as particularly noteworthy. To him, he was just another kid making shots through the rain-soaked fairways, griping about missed putts and nervously watching the leader board and hoping his season would continue.
I get it all the time, people telling me Im inspiring, and I can see their point, said Mathias, a junior at Jay County. But I feel like Im just like anybody else.
Mathias was born with congenital defects in both legs – he was missing joints and bones, and he had deformities in his feet. His parents decided he would have double-amputation surgery when he was 8 months old.
There were a couple diagnoses the doctors had for why I was born that way, but none of them really fit, Mathias said.
His right leg was removed where his knee would have been, and his left leg was removed below the knee.
There was no way, though, that it was going to hold Mathias back from doing the things he loved, including golf, which is popular in the family. Donning prostheses on both legs, hes played since he was about 4.
Ive had a lot of support, so much support through the years, Mathias said. Im basically like anybody else.
One of the challenges is that he lacks the lower-body strength and rotation in the hips that helps most golfers.
I dont really have much rotation on the bottom, said Mathias, 17. Its mostly arm strength. I do a lot of swimming and that helps me in that area.
Any obstacles he has run into with honing his swing have been solved mostly on his own.
I compete in a lot of national amputee golf tournaments, and I do have some really good friends Ive met through the years that way, and they can always help me, he said.
On Saturday, Oak Hill placed first in the team competition with a 324. Oak Hills Cody White had the days best score, 73, and Bellmonts Chase Ellsworth shot a 77 to advance as an individual.
There were a lot of ups and downs, and I had to keep bouncing back after a bad hole, but that happens, said Ellsworth, who reached the state finals last year. I got lucky again, I guess. But a lot of practice is paying off.
South Adams Cal Clouser also advanced to Fridays regional at The Players Club in Muncie with an 80. Mathias made it last year because his team advanced.
Im just glad to be going again, said Mathias, who also plays tennis and wants to continue golfing in college, where hed be an inspiration, like it or not. I will hopefully play in college and who knows what can happen beyond that. But as long as I play in college, Ill be happy.