How do you stay in shape?

“I’m in the gym three to four times a week. I ride a [stationary] bike, walk 30 minutes on a treadmill, lift weights and do core training for my golf swing and for stability. It can be hard to start up, but once I get in there, I feel tons better.”

What’s your favorite golf club and why? 

“My favorite club in the bag right now is my putter. One good putt can save a lot of bad shots! Sometimes when my arthritis is bothering me, I will take an extra club to help hit the ball a little further. A lot of times I don’t get as much rotation as I would like to hit a full shot, but I’ve learned to work my way around those challenges.”

You were just a kid when you were diagnosed. How did you cope?

“Being a sixth-grader, if felt like it was the end of the world. I couldn’t go to school. I didn’t know what was happening. It all happened so fast - one day I was fine and the next I couldn’t move. But my family was so supportive and wonderful. My dad would pick me up and carry me out to the porch to hang out outside. He picked me up and carried me to the golf course. I’d ride in the cart and watch him play. I couldn’t do it on my own, but just being out there with him and around sports was exciting. Everybody was so supportive. They were just as scared as I was, but they didn’t show it. Not knowing what was going on was the scariest part.”

Why do you volunteer for the Arthritis Foundation?

“I just really want all of the kids out there (with arthritis) to know that they can do anything that they want to do. Sure, some days will be tougher, but this disease does not have to take away the things you are passionate about. I love to see their faces when I tell them that there is hope and they could still be professional athletes or whatever it is that they dream of being.”

What’s the biggest impact arthritis has had on your life (other than the pain and mobility issues)?

“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Getting arthritis was the best thing that ever happened to me. It took my life in a completely different direction than I would have ever chosen for myself. It chose my career for me and it chose a lifestyle for me. At the time it was frustrating, scary and upsetting, but it was definitely a blessing in disguise.”

What’s the one thing that drove you to overcome the obstacles of your condition?

“Instead of letting it take control of me, I decided I was going to take control and live a life competing. Sometimes it’s really tough, but if you just keep persevering, it makes the great achievements even more rewarding.”

What would you be doing for a living if you weren’t golfing?

“Growing up I always wanted to be a garbage [person]. I thought it would be cool to hang off the back of a truck while somebody drove you around [LOL]. But really I’ve always loved kids. When I got sick, I spent so much time at the pediatrician that I wanted to be a pediatrician and just help kids. I want to have about a dozen myself! I guess I need to get started on that!”

Will you always golf?

“You never know, as far as health goes and injuries you can’t control. But I hope to stay out here for as long as I can be competitive. I think I’ll stay in the golf industry ­– maybe a college coach or teaching golf.

What advice would you give other golfers with arthritis?

“Some days are more difficult than others, but nothing is impossible. Having arthritis makes you enjoy the days on the golf course even more. Enjoy the game for just what it is – a game! I’m just lucky I get to play this game for a living!”