THe story

Kyle Miller makes his­tory as first player with cere­bral palsy to play in PGA Tour­sanc­tioned event

Calgary Sun - - SPORTS - WeS GilbeRT­SOn

Kyle Miller was the first. He fin­ished last. Only one of those tid­bits will be re­mem­bered. Only one mat­ters, re­ally — the fact that Cal­gary’s Miller made his­tory this week at the 2017 ATB Fi­nan­cial Clas­sic as the first ath­lete with cere­bral palsy to com­pete in a PGA Tour-sanc­tioned shootout.

The 26-year-old was fum­ing af­ter Fri­day’s sec­ond round and is un­der­stand­ably disappointed and maybe a tad em­bar­rassed by his last-place show­ing — 31 shots worse than any­body else in the field — but a bet­ter re­sult would have sim­ply been a bonus.

Miller was not only the feel­good story of the first two days of the Macken­zie TourPGA Tour Canada event at Coun­try Hills Golf Club.

He was THE STORY. Pe­riod. A his­toric story.

A story that tran­scends sport.

Miller missed the cut with a two-day to­tal of 47-over 189. That stings for the pro­fes­sional in­struc­tor at GolfTEC Cal­gary Mid­na­pore, who was play­ing on a spon­sor ex­emp­tion, but it doesn’t spoil the sig­nif­i­cance of his ac­com­plish­ment.

“I played my two worst rounds of my golf ca­reer,” Miller said af­ter Fri­day’s score of 17-over 88, a 13-stroke im­prove­ment from his first tour­na­ment spin of the Talons track at Coun­try Hills.

“Not im­pressed with my per­form- ance, by

any means. I was just a wreck on the greens and around the greens. Driver, hy­brids, irons … All that was good. I can hit it with these guys. I can keep up, even on a long course. But I think I av­er­aged 2.5 putts per hole (Thurs­day). That’s 40-some putts. That’s so far away from what I do nat­u­rally. “But there are a lot of peo­ple that get in­spi­ra­tion from this and ul­ti­mately that is the big picture, how­ever hard it is on me to soak in the re­sults.” That is, in­deed, the big­ger picture, and that’s why the 2017 ATB Fi­nan­cial Clas­sic is re­ceiv­ing more me­dia ex­po­sure than ever be­fore. A re­porter from CNN called to in­ter­view Miller. With all due re­spect to In­di­ana’s Chase Wright, who owns a one-shot lead at 12-un­der 130 or to any of the pur­suit pack, the Amer­i­can news net­work won’t be in­ter­ested in who hoists the tro­phy af­ter Sun­day’s fi­nal round.

“It was great to see, on the first tee (Thurs­day), some kids with dis­abil­i­ties there to see Kyle tee off,” said ATB Fi­nan­cial Clas­sic tour­na­ment di­rec­tor Colin Laven­der. “It’s just a great ex­am­ple.”

Miller was hop­ing to earn a week­end tee-time at the mi­nor-league tour stop, and every­body who now knows his back­ground — he suf­fered a stroke when he was born a month early, has been through 14 sep­a­rate surg­eries and was al­ways mo­ti­vated by the folks who made him feel like his golf dreams were far­fetched — seemed to be pulling for him to fin­ish on the right side of the 36-hole cut­line.

He strug­gled, though, man­ag­ing only three pars in the first round. Im­me­di­ately af­ter sign­ing a score­card Thurs­day that also in­cluded seven bo­geys, seven dou­ble bo­geys and a 12 on a Par-3, Miller sought out Laven­der, the man who fi­nal­ized the list of eight ex­emp­tions from a thick stack of pretty-please let­ters.

“He came up to me and apol­o­gized. He was ex­pect­ing a lot more of him­self,” Laven­der said. “I told him, ‘There’s noth­ing to apol­o­gize for. At all.’ I still think it is su­per that he’s here.”

Miller’s score was bet­ter Fri­day, high­lighted by a birdie on No. 13, but he walked off the fi­nal green know­ing that he hadn’t show­cased his true abil­i­ties.

“Be­fore I even put the peg in the ground, I had al­ready won,” Miller said. “But I think the thing to un­der­stand is that it’s very tough as a golf pro­fes­sional to come out and shoot 100. To be hon­est with you, man, no mat­ter how many peo­ple you’re in­spir­ing, it’s still a dif­fi­cult hit to wrap your head around — like, ‘How did I blow it?’

“But I’ll learn from it. I know what I have to be bet­ter at.”

Miller wouldn’t have reached this stage with­out his re­silient na­ture. So it should be no sur­prise that just min­utes af­ter Fri­day’s dou­ble­bo­gey fin­ish, he was look­ing for­ward to his next op­por­tu­nity.

“This isn’t go­ing to be the last time I play in one of these,” he said.

“I’ll just be bet­ter the next time that I do.”

Gavin yOunG/PosT­mediA

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