Luke Grossnicklaus has a reason for riding in a golf cart at the Class B boys golf state tournament at Meadowlark Hills in Kearney.
The Aurora sophomore had a childhood condition that suffocated one leg and kept it from growing.
He now has an artificial leg. He walks with a bit of a limp, but that’s the only sign of the impairment. Nothing was going to keep Grossnicklaus from playing golf anyway.
“I love the game,” Grossnicklaus said. “I couldn’t get away from it just because I have a disability.”
The state tournaments are Tuesday and Wednesday. Class A is at Highlands in Lincoln, Class C at the Kearney Country Club and Class D at River’s Edge in North Platte.
Grossnicklaus has won twice this season, most recently two weeks ago in a playoff while playing against mostly Class A golfers at the Grand Island Invitational.
“That was just terrific,” Aurora coach Dick Binfield said. “He’s a scrapper. He’s a good short-game golfer. I’ve been trying and I think this year I got him to buy into that part of the program. It’s paying off.”
The artificial leg isn‘t a problem for Grossnicklaus.
“He works really well with that,” Binfield said. “It’s just amazing what the kid can do and how he hits some shots. He’s getting stronger. He does some weight training and things like that too.
“He’s not going to be real phenomenal distance-wise, but he puts it in the middle, puts it on the green and puts it in the hole.”
Grossnicklaus received a medical exemption from the Nebraska School Activities Association to use a cart during high school meets.
“We had to petition the NSAA with some medical documentation from a specialist he sees in Minnesota,” Binfield said. “He can walk, but obviously an 18-hole golf tournament is tough. That’s like taking a five-hour hike.”
Another golfer who may draw double takes is Wahoo Neumann freshman girl Haley Thiele in Class C.
Thiele placed fourth in districts to help the Cavaliers win the team title. The school does not field a girls golf team, which makes Thiele eligible to play on the boys team.
She’s not the first girl to play in the boys state tournament. Among those who have are former University of Nebraska golfers Laura Gunia (Alliance St. Agnes), Stephanie Hupp (Norfolk Catholic) and Sara Sackett (Cambridge). The best finish at state has been Sackett’s eighth-place medal in 2000.
“Haley has an incredibly efficient swing and great short game,’’ said an opposing coach, Bo Krivohlavek of Logan View. “But in my opinion, her best quality is her demeanor and competitiveness. She has been completely at home playing in the boys meets from day one. Not one hint of intimidation.
“Every high school boy golfer in our area, and I mean every one, has the utmost respect for her as a player. She is destined for great things.”
World-Herald staff writer Stu Pospisil contributed to this report.