DEMOTTE, Ind. — Hayden Myers keeps getting up despite great odds. His story is one of grit and determination. His coach and community consistently stand behind the high school golfer struggling with a debilitating and unknown illness. But more importantly, he never gives up.
In a field of 108 golfers, Hayden shouldn’t be here.
“This means a lot to me just being here today because I was not favored to get out of sectionals,” he said.
But last week, the fifth best golfer on the five-man roster at Kankakee Valley High School shot the round of his life to make it to the state qualifier.
Jeffery McMillan is the boys’ golf coach.
“Not only did he go out there and beat all the kids on our team, he beat all the other number 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5’s to make it this far,” he said.
“I know for my parents, what we’ve been through together, my family entirely, my team and my coach, it meant the world to us that finally something was seeming to go my way this year,” Myers said.
While his fellow competitors spent the days leading up to the tournament playing practice rounds at Sandy Pines in Northwest Indiana, Myers was at the Mayo Clinic meeting with doctors.
“I have this tendency to pass out a lot. It happens one or two times a day, sometimes more, but it’s on the daily. So it keeps everyone on their toes,” he said. “There’s no rhyme or reason of it. It just happens. I don’t get a warning sign. I just wake up and I don’t know where I’m and I don’t know what I was doing.”
It’s happened more than 150 times since November. Still, the 18-year-old drove back late Wednesday night so he could make his early Thursday morning tee time. It was the first time he’d picked up a club in week.
“We left the appointment early so we could get back here,” his father Ryan Myers said. “This means the world to him and to us for him to be out here competing today. And so we’re just incredibly proud. He probably didn’t get the practice he needed but it’s ok. There are bigger things in life than playing golf.”
“Some of them, he can get right back up and keep going,” his mother Johanne Myers said. “Some of the episodes he’s actually down for the count. It takes a good hour, two hours before he wants to get back up and move around.”
It’s a mysterious condition he’s lived with since November. His doctors have yet to figure out why. Heart trouble was ruled out. Now Hayden Myers is trying a new medication and seeing a neurologist and other specialists to help sort thru the symptoms.
“I try not to think about it too much. I try to just focus on the shot ahead,” he said.
So with a crowd 10 carts deep in his gallery, he marched down the fairway toward an unlikely goal.
There were some jitters off the tee and a few emotions as the senior struggled on the greens. McMillan was by his side and talking him through the rough spots.
But none of it compares to what he’s faced in the last seven months, living with the constant threat of a sudden collapse.
“Just incredibly proud of the way he’s handled himself throughout this whole thing,” Ryan Myers said.
“It’s definitely been chaotic, stressful, heartbreaking,” Johanne Myers said. “But he has definitely turned things around, kept a good spirit and kept going even when I wanted to give up.”
Off the course, Hayden Myers is already winning. He’s a volunteer firefighter, prepping for his EMT exam and just an all-around good kid from a small community that has rallied behind him through the ups and downs.
But on the seventh tee, his condition caught up wth him. It happened fast and he went down as a fellow competitor teed off.
“He just told me that he was feeling real cold and I’ve been through it enough to kind of sense it,” McMillian said. “It’s very unsettling at first for most people when you first see it because you don’t know if he’s having a heart attack or what. You don’t know what’s happens when somebody is just laying there like that.”
With his parents and coach by his side, Hayden Myer’s high school golf career came to an end after six holes in the state qualifier.
“To see a kid that could have just said, ‘No, Mom and Dad, I’m not playing. I just want to be a manager,’ or something …” McMillian said. “No, he fought through it and kept battling it out.”
About 30 minutes later, Hayden Myers was feeling better and thankful for the support of his family and friends who helped him through the day.
“All of a sudden, I just felt this cold rush over me,” he said. “Next thing I knew I was waking up on the ground with people around me. But something that’s become ordinary now. (I) tried to get back up but my body didn’t feel it. … I wanted to go out there and finish and possibly punch a ticket for them and make them proud but I’m very happy they were behind me.”
Hayden Myers and his family plan to head back to the Mayo Clinic next week for more tests and doctor’s appointments, hoping to finally get some answers about the mysterious condition.