Sean Patrick’s first-ever trip to Arizona proved to be a homecoming of sorts.
The 29-year-old golf club professional from Ohio came to the desert course to mentor young golfers, something he does regularly in his full-time job, but it’s not often that he gets to share his passion with children who, like him, have a bleeding disorder.
Thirteen years ago, Sean was the one learning the ropes from golf pros at CSL Behring’s Gettin’ in the Game Junior National Championship (JNC), the only national sports competition for kids and teens with a bleeding disorder. The event, then held in Florida, helped Patrick realize he could not only succeed in golf while living with hemophilia, but make it his career.
“Growing up with a bleeding disorder, you just don’t understand what you can do or what you can’t do,” Patrick told Vita.
Contact sports can be out of bounds for kids with conditions like hemophilia, which can lead bruising and joint damage. But low-impact sports are activities that people living with bleeding disorders can actively take part and thrive in, says professional golfer Perry Parker, who has hemophilia and helped create the JNC event. He calls golf “a perfect sport” for kids with hemophilia.
“It’s a physical activity but there’s really a low risk for injury,” he said.
Perry has been taking time out of his busy touring career, which includes five titles on the Canadian tour and three U.S. Open appearances, to teach that “perfect sport” to kids with bleeding disorders at the JNC for nearly two decades. Seeing someone with a bleeding disorder as a leader on the golf course gave Sean a vision of a future that could include not only playing golf for a living, but teaching it as well.
“After meeting him and getting to know him, I had more of a drive to teach golf rather than play professional golf. It’s interesting,” he said.
After graduating from Ohio’s University of Mount Union, where he was a member of the golf team, Sean went on to become a professional at several golf clubs around the state, giving pointers to adults, teens and kids on how to improve their golf game.
It’s no surprise then that when Perry needed a hand teaching recent JNC participants how to succeed in sports and life while living with a bleeding disorder, he knew exactly who to call.
“Bringing kids back who have participated in the past is a big part of this program,” Parker told Vita. “Sean is a club professional now, so he’s a perfect fit to come back and instruct kids and also talk about his bleeding disorder.”
During his second visit to the JNC, Sean once again found inspiration. This time it came from kids eager to learn new skills in a sport where they can excel.
“They're excited about it all and they're not worried about any kind of wins and losses,” he said. “They're seeing that this is a new thing for them.”