Kirk Mease, Head PGA Professional at Wellshire Golf Course, is passionate about helping others; in fact, it is central to all that he holds dear. So, you can imagine his bewilderment when the tables were turned, and he became the recipient of all that is good in the game of golf.
“To me, it’s all about making a difference in the lives of others through this great game,” begins Mease. “So, I was surprised when I realized that it was my life being changed as a result of my interactions with someone wanting to get back onto the golf course.”
As a PGA Professional who has completed adaptive-golf training in support of the Colorado PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) Program, Mease is dedicated to providing individuals with physical, cognitive or sensory impairments the needed resources to learn, play and enjoy the game of golf while enhancing their lives. Because of Wellshire’s inventory of adaptive golf carts – three stand-up and play and two solo riders – Mease and his staff focus their benevolence on showing this demographic how golf is possible for them. He annually hosts Colorado PGA HOPE Programs, helps with patient rehabilitation at Craig Hospital, works with the certified therapeutic recreational program at the VA Hospital, assists with City of Denver’s Parks and Rec Special Needs Program and supports the Special Olympics, to name just a few.
Mease isn’t without his own personal challenges that limit his time on the golf course. He experienced his first symptom of Neuro-sarcoidosis in 2000, a condition that, for him, affects his spine and brain at various times. This condition is likely a contributor to what drives Mease. He is not a quitter. When asked about his condition, he comments, “This is my new normal. With a positive mindset and the strong support of family and friends, I will continue to take life one shot at a time.”
Enter Jamie Ketchum. On May 25, 2017, Jamie, her husband Troy and her parents were driving on I-25 when a dump truck blew a tire and smashed into their SUV. Both vehicles burst into flames. Jamie’s dad died instantly. Jamie, Troy and her mom were all injured.
Jamie suffered the most severe injuries, with burns over 95 percent of her body, the worst injuries doctors in the UCHealth Burn and Frostbite Center had ever seen. One arm and both legs were so severely burned that doctors had to amputate them. Her odds of survival were 13 percent, but the funny, eternally optimistic patient never doubted she’d make it. After 425 days, the longest a patient had ever spent in the burn unit, Jamie was discharged.
Rather than focus on anger or loss, she relishes life: skiing, playing hockey, visiting a dude ranch and throwing out the first pitch at a Colorado Rockies game. She and Troy consider this situation their new normal and work each day to solve the puzzles of life that confront them.
In June of 2019, a staff member at the Colorado PGA office fielded an inquiry from a nurse at the University of Colorado Anschutz Burn Unit requesting assistance to help one of her patients – Jamie Ketchum – get back into the game of golf. Aware of the talents and dedication Mease brings to assisting impaired golfers reclaim their place on the course, it was an easy decision to entrust this situation to him.
Mease met with Jamie to evaluate what they had to work with and to determine the course of action to accomplish this request. One-week later, he delivered to Jamie a putter that could be attached to her forearm enabling her to swing the club like a pendulum.
This solution allowed Jamie, in an adaptive golf cart, to participate in the 10th Annual UCHealth Burn Center Golf Tournament at Arrowhead Golf Course in July. She was located on the 18th green where she would execute a putt for each team, giving them the option to use her putt to finish out their score. The first putt she made that day was an eagle putt! It was also during this tournament that Jamie met the two paramedics who had rescued her and her family from the accident.
“This entire experience was heartwarming,” recalls a speechless Mease. “‘Can’t’ isn’t in this amazing woman’s vocabulary. Because of her attitude, it isn’t about the cards she was dealt but about how she deals with the cards. To be just a small part of her amazing journey is very rewarding.
“These experiences are very humbling and remind us all that being a PGA Professional is all about helping others enjoy the game,” concludes Mease. “I thoroughly enjoy everything the golf industry and the game of golf have to offer. Being able to make a difference in the lives of others through this great game is what it is all about, and I feel intense gratitude when I am able to help someone come out of a dark place and use golf as a tool to help them get through life.”
Mease is the recipient of the 2019 Colorado Player Development Award.