Golf suits Grayslake North's Sagendorph just fine
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He could run from what some would consider his physical burden, but that wouldn't be fun for Kyle Sagendorph.
He's enjoying life's journey at his own pace, walking, not running because an injury at birth prevents him from pumping his left arm when he sprints.
The Grayslake North senior may be slow afoot, but he's quick to note it's no big deal to him. Truth is, he wanted to come into this world so badly that he injured himself, and he's never fully recovered.
So he splits a fairway, hits his approach shot on the green, putts out, slings his golf bag over his good shoulder and walks to the next hole.
"My shoulder blade kind of wings out a little bit," Sagendorph, turning his left shoulder, said following a varsity golf match at McHenry Country Club last week. "But other than that, it's not too noticeable."
What sticks out about Sagendorph is his attitude and maturity.
When he was born, Sagendorph suffered what's called a brachial plexus injury. Expected to be a hearty 8-pound baby at birth, Kyle got stuck in the birth canal. When he arrived, he weighed in at — gulp — 11 pounds, 1 ounce. Parents think future D-tackle if their son pops out that big.
"He almost didn't make it," Glenn Sagendorph said of his son, whose older sister Lauren was also a big baby (9 pounds, 11 ounces). "There was a little bit of a time there where it was really scary. During his effort to come into this world, he literally strained a bunch of nerves that are in his neck."
When Glenn and Marcia held their newborn son for the first time, Kyle had no use of his left arm.
The nerves he strained control his biceps.
"There's no connection between his brain and (left) arm, basically," Glenn said. "The way the doctors described it was, he stretched that particular nerve and almost frayed it. It didn't break, fortunately."
There was hope the nerves could grow back. But after a year it wasn't happening, so doctors referred the Sagendorphs to a hospital in Houston, Texas, to see a specialist. Kyle was about a year old when he had a surgery that helped "a little bit," Glenn said. Kyle gained some movement in his left arm.
But at 16 months, Kyle was back in the operating room in Houston. He now had more surgeries (2) than birthdays (1).
The surgery went well.
"He got about 70-75 percent of his movement back," Glenn said. "These were all relatively new surgeries. With people having bigger babies, (the brachial plexus injury) became more common. This doctor kind of created this niche. Fortunately, Kyle had these surgeries. Otherwise, to this day, he would have no movement in his arm whatsoever."
At 9, Kyle had a third surgery — again in Houston — in which doctors purposely broke his collarbone. That operation helped, too.
In the meantime, sports-fan Kyle was making all-star teams and travel teams, playing everything from baseball to basketball to even football. In baseball, he could hit, his dad said, but running and fielding were issues, especially the latter because Kyle can't fully supinate.
"Through a lot of hours of physical therapy," Glenn said, "maybe after that third surgery, he was able to get maybe 80-85 percent of that movement back."
"It really hurt me in sports," Kyle said of the brachial plexus. "I'm a huge sports guy. I've played pretty much every sport there is."
Then around seventh grade, through his dad and grandfather, Kyle discovered golf. A good walk would not be spoiled. He didn't have to run.
"I just kind of fell in love with it because it was the only real sport where I didn't need to run or do anything too physically challenging," Kyle said.
Sagendorph is playing in the No. 3 slot for Grayslake North. He's been on the varsity since his sophomore year and has been a regular in the Knights' lineup the last two seasons.
The only handicap discussed on the golf course is his index. The skinny 17-year-old doesn't boast a single-digit handicap but he routinely breaks 100 and has the capability to shoot in the 80s.
"The cool thing about Kyle is, this whole time, he's never one time referenced (the brachial plexus)," Knights coach Tim Hough said. "It's never been an excuse or anything like that."
Sagendorph does everything right-handed, including swinging a golf club. The lack of strength in his left arm affects his power, but the righty is all right with that.
"It doesn't really affect my golf swing," he said. "I don't really drive it as far as most people. I just try to hit it straight."
Running aside, Sagendorph refuses to let the injury slow him down. He has no problems buttoning his shirt, driving a car — or a Titleist. He might not be able to scratch his back with his left arm, but, hey, that's why someone invented a back scratcher.
He plays trumpet in the school marching band. He strums the guitar.
When he had his last surgery, Sagendorph met a bunch of other people who have the brachial plexus injury.
He realized something. His life is pretty sweet.
"I actually have it a lot better than them," Sagendorph said. "I was really lucky."
So were Glenn and Marcia. Kyle has always considered himself just another kid.
"He's just always been a good kid that everybody likes, is coachable and eager to learn," his proud dad said.
We can all learn from Kyle Sagendorph.
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