|Brendon Jacks lines up to practice his long drive. He will compete at the first-ever Amputee Long Drive championship this week in Tennessee.|
|"I saw children with cerebral palsy, neurological disorders, cranial disfigurement - and the parents with hearts breaking for their children. I thought, 'man, I don't have anything to complain about,'" |
- Brendon Jacks
Brendon Jacks' left leg is prosthetic below the knee, but he doesn't consider himself disabled.
"I'm able-bodied; I get around and do what I want," the 31-year-old said.
A Prescott Valley resident since his transfer from Yuma with the Coca Cola Company two years ago, Jacks headed east yesterday to compete in the first-ever Amputee Long Drive Championship at Loudon's Tennessee National Golf Course.
His interest in golf started at age 7 when his father took him to a course.
But it was baseball where he first made his mark. Professional scouts were watching him pitch his 93-mph fastball at age 17.
Then came what he calls "a strange turn of events" in his small border hometown of Douglas, Ariz.
"I got involved in drugs and alcohol," Jacks said. "The port of entry to Mexico was different then, you could come and go as you pleased."
On Dec. 6, 1999, his father found him inebriated in the garage holding a 12-gauge shotgun to his head, and asked what he was doing.
"I don't know, Dad," he said was his reply.
The gun discharged into his femoral artery when his dad tried to wrestle it away.
He remembers his father putting a belt around his leg to slow the bleeding, and he remembers some of the helicopter flight, but details are hazy. He spent five months in in-patient rehab.
"I believe I could've healed if I'd given myself time, but being a dumb kid, I was just running around acting the fool," Jacks said. "I got in trouble and sat in jail for a little while. The judge gave me an ultimatum - rehab or jail."
He wisely chose rehab, but he had lost feeling in his leg from the knee down, and five months later didn't realize an ulcer had developed on his heel because of too-tight shoes. Amputation was the only alternative.
"I was 18, but so sick, I said hurry up and do it."
He recalls being wheeled back from surgery, pulling up the sheet and waving his shortened limb at his sister, before memory becomes vague. Another stint in rehab and a new prosthetic and he was off again.
"They told me to be real careful, but again, being a dumb kid, I took off."
His dad brought him his clubs and he started working at golf courses where he could play for free.
"I could win money at it and it was something to do," Jacks said.
Then, in 2004, while working part-time in a pro shop in Yuma, his wife, Jennifer, expecting their first child, told him he had an interview with Coca Cola.
He worked nights while Jennifer worked days until 2008, when Jacks took work for a prosthetic company as a certified registered fitter of orthotics, while continuing as a temp for Coke.
"I saw children with cerebral palsy, neurological disorders, cranial disfigurement - and the parents with hearts breaking for their children. I thought, 'Man, I don't have anything to complain about,'" Jacks said. "That taught me compassion and opened my eyes to my so-called disability."
He became a supervisor at Coca Cola a year later. When the company restructured, he moved his family to Prescott Valley to take a distribution supervisor job in Prescott.
"My wife and I prayed about it, and here I be," he said.
Jennifer telecommutes as a comptroller for another company, and is glad to have help from a friend with their daughter, 7, and son, 3.
The Jacks now will help that friend, Kristi Whitted, cope with the loss of her husband, Clayton, one of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died June 30 fighting the Yarnell Hill fire.
"Clayton was wise beyond his years. It's such a tragedy. My heart breaks for the families. These women will need super support and they will have to be strong. There's only one place to get that strength - from the Lord," Jacks said the day after Clayton's funeral. "Saved people have a goal in mind; we know there's hope. I know Kristi's faith is strong in the Lord."
Jacks said he's had plenty of help through his "self-inflicted difficult time," from God and people - especially his wife and children.
In 2011, Lance Reader from Krank Golf in Tempe saw him hit a few balls and asked Jacks to return in two weeks for a regional qualifier for the Long Drivers of America competition. His 399-yarder got him into regionals. He was eliminated in sectionals, but a month later, made it into another sectional through a last-chance qualifier.
"I was competing against the top guys in the world - guys who were 'whole.' It was real humbling. I've had so much grace bestowed upon me," Jacks said.
He qualified again this past year, and was eliminated during Colorado sectionals.
He looks forward to meeting his competition at the first ALDC.
"One bright young man, injured in a boat accident, started the Jordan Thomas Foundation to raise funds for families who can't afford prosthetics," Jacks said of one entrant.
Jacks is listed as one of the frontrunners, but doesn't take himself too seriously.
"It's fun. I get to travel and make it date time with my wife," he said of long drive competitions. "Whether I win or lose, I count it as a win as long as everybody involved can see the inspiration."
He acknowledged Hamilton Prosthetics and Ability Dynamics in Phoenix, and Prescott Valley's Stone Ridge Golf Course, saying all had been "very gracious" to him.
"Yes, I have athletic ability and that's great, but the vehicle that has allowed me to do this is the people who have helped me. I've been blessed by God," Jacks said.
For more information, visit: www.amputeelongdrivechampionship.com.