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Down syndrome is no handicap to Union High golfer

Published: Monday, Oct. 14 2013 4:10 p.m. MDT

Kody Conover of Union reacts finishing his round during the boys 3A state high school golf championship at Mountain Dell Golf Course, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — He looked like your typical high school golfer, all bundled up in the cold and wet conditions at the 3A golf tournament last week at Mountain Dell Golf Course.

After hitting his drive to the par-3 No. 9 hole onto the green, 20 feet short of the hole, Kody Conover hunched over his putt and stroked his putt toward the cup, leaving it a foot short. He carefully marked the ball and when it was his turn, calmly stroked it in for the par.

Only afterward did you notice Kody was a little different. After punching the air in celebration, he sprinted across the green to his bag before enthusiastically pushing his four-wheeled golf cart up the hill behind the green.

You see, Kody is a little different from most golfers and his story is one of determination, passion and relationships.

Kody has Down syndrome. It’s a condition that affects as many as a half million people in the United States, presenting physical and mental challenges in their everyday lives. Yet it doesn’t keep Kody Conover from playing golf, something he does very well.

Kody wasn’t the best player at Mountain Dell last week, about in the middle of the pack of the 105 golfers who competed. His first-day 85 was a typical score for him but he has shot in the 70s on four occasions in practice rounds.

“He loves it,’’ says his mother, Kitty. “He goes to bed thinking about golf and wakes up thinking about golf. It’s been really good for him because it teaches him determination. Like today in the miserable weather a lot of kids would give up. But he just kept on going.’’

Kody has been enrolled in public schools since the second grade and takes regular classes except for a reading class. He has played on the Union High golf team for four years and will graduate with his class at the end of the year.

Golf is his passion and something Kody is more than happy to talk about.

He answers questions in short bursts, always with a smile on his face.

How did you play today?

“Decent.”

How did the bad weather affect your game?

“No good.’’

When asked at what age he started playing golf he answers “8,’’ but his mother sitting nearby corrects him and says he actually has been playing since he was 3. That’s when he received some plastic clubs as an Easter present before graduating to real clubs soon after.

Perhaps he was thinking of his first birdie, which, remarkably, came at age 8. Last year, he made his first hole in one.

What’s the best part of your game?

“My short game.’’

Putting or chipping?

“Both.’’

But he also says he outdrives his playing partners “a lot” and when asked how far he can hit it, Kody says “260.’’ Although 260 yards may seem quite long for a young man who is just 5-foot-5 and 135 pounds, he’s not exaggerating. A couple of his teammates sitting nearby nod their heads to back his assertion.

So why do you play golf?

“Just to have fun, just to look good,’’ he says, then offers some golf advice, “don’t have three-putts.’’

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