Bradenton golfer who overcame cancer, addiction, amputation will be in inaugural Adaptive US Open
BRADENTON, Fla. - After recovering from cancer, surgeries and addiction, pro golfer Kenny Bontz is ready to get back to chasing his dreams.
"I never tee it up to finish second," said Bontz.
Bontz has dealt with difficulties his opponents on the course couldn't imagine.
"I'm an ‘A.K.’ so I'm missing two major joints, my knee, and my ankle," Bontz explained.
First, he was diagnosed with cancer. Then he had surgery on his legs. That's when a prescription for opioid painkillers became an addiction.
He knew the only way he would live was to remove the source of his pain.
"I cut my leg off and moved on," said Bontz. "It took me three and a half months."
That was 19 years ago.
This weekend, he enters a new battle – and this is one he's excited to take on.
Using a prosthetic leg, Bontz is heading to the famed Pinehurst Golf Course as one of just 96 golfers to be invited to the inaugural, USGA-sponsored, Adaptive US Open.
"To be in an inaugural event and an invitation-only, I'm proud that I was selected to go," said Bontz.
The Adaptive US Open is a brand-new tournament open to golfers with both physical and mental disabilities.
After the battles Kenny has fought, however, fighting to be the best in this field of 96 men and women will be nothing new.
"I live by a ‘no expectations thought’ now," said Bontz. "Somedays you're the bug and somedays you're the windshield."
But Kenny and his caddie, Russ Jalbert, aren’t heading from Florida to North Carolina to be the bugs.
"We want to compete at a high level, and we want to be in the hunt in the final day of the tournament with a chance to win," said Jalbert.
After all, it’s Bontz’s dream to be a member of the PGA Champions’ Tour. At 52 years old, Bontz has tried to qualify for the tour twice.
A good showing this weekend could relight that spark.
"I expect to succeed at whatever I do, and I will take nothing less. And, I'll do whatever I have to do, to do it," Bontz says.
But first, Bontz hopes to call himself a US Open Champion.
Bontz will be one of four from the Tampa Bay area competing in this weekend's tournament.