Play TPC Sawgrass? It's Not Every Day
May 27, 2011
By Cindy Elliott, Special to Together, Anything's Possible
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.—As part of the PGA TOUR’s support for the Dream Factory, TPC Sawgrass rolled out the red carpet this week for 18-year-old Travis Kochenower of Whitewater, Kan., who has spent most of his life battling reflux nephropathy renal disease.
A four-year member of the Frederic Remington High School golf team, Kochenower’s dream was to play a PGA TOUR golf course—an experience TPC Sawgrass, home to THE PLAYERS Championship, was happy to provide in conjunction with the Dream Factory, a non-profit organization that makes dreams come true for children with life-altering and life-threatening illnesses.
Accompanied by his mom, Shalae, stepdad, Mike Wallace, and three 17-year-old step siblings, Hannah, Olivia and Shane, Kochenower was treated to a VIP golf vacation that included a stay at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, rounds of golf on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course and Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass and the King and Bear at the World Golf Village in nearby St. Augustine.
Kochenower was surprised with the opportunity to play a round of golf on Dye’s Valley Course with 2009 Nationwide Tour Championship winner and PGA TOUR veteran Matt Every. For Kochenower, the experience proved to be more than he could have hoped for.
“Travis was overwhelmed by the chance to play with a PGA TOUR player, and by the whole experience of being at TPC Sawgrass,” said Shalae Wallace. “We can’t thank the TOUR, TPC Sawgrass, Matt Every or the Dream Factory enough for creating this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Travis and our entire family. These are memories we will always treasure.”
Kochenower and his mom share a very special bond because of his disease. Diagnosed at three months old with reflux nephropathy that affects his kidneys, Kochenower spent much of the first three years of his life in a hospital. With medication and the care of two nephrologists, Kochenower’s health remained steady until age 12, when he underwent a kidney transplant at The Children’s Mercy Hospital of Kansas City, with a kidney donated by his mom. Kochenower’s dad died in 1996 when Kochenower was three years old.
Despite several setbacks due to the kidney transplant, including a reaction to an immune-suppressant drug, daily medications and monthly blood tests have allowed him to lead an active life.
In addition to playing on the varsity golf team, Kochenower has managed the high school football team for four years, managed the wrestling team prior to complications arising from the drug reaction and is also a member of the band and choir. In addition, for 14 years he has been active in his local 4-H Club and will graduate from high school this month. He plans to pursue a degree in agriculture from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan.
For one week, though, his thoughts were strictly on golf.
“This was really unforgettable,” he said. “And to share these experiences with my family made it even more special.”
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