Michael Valencia’s dream of following in the footsteps of professional golfers will come true October 23-25, when he travels to Las Vegas as a patient ambassador for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. “I’m honored to represent Shriners and to see the pro golfers that I aspire to be,” said Michael. “Without Shriners I wouldn’t have the ability to golf.”
Michael, 15, is a sophomore at Elk Grove High School, where he holds a top spot on the golf team and is a kicker for the school’s football team. Last year, Michael was the only freshman who earned the ability to travel to away tournaments with the golf team, an honor that requires a player to score in the top six during a qualifying round.
Michael had his mind set on being a top player on the team and loves the sportsmanship of the game. “When you’re on the golf course you’re there to be a gentleman,” Michael says. “I’m more of a gentleman than I was before I joined golf. It’s changed me.”
Michael was chosen as one of 18 patient ambassadors throughout the country to represent the hospital network at the tournament, where he will serve as a standard-bearer, carrying the scores of a group of professional golfers as they compete in the tournament. It is a rare “behind the ropes” opportunity at the PGA Tour event, as well as the chance to share how Shriners Hospitals have helped transform his life.
As part of the tournament festivities, Michael will have breakfast with the pros and participate in a golf clinic led by PGA professionals. His story and photo appear in the tournament program, and his information will be shared with the Golf Channel, which will televise the tournament nationally. The broadcast reaches over 700 million homes across 240 countries worldwide. Michael also will join other Shriners Hospital patient ambassadors at the 18th hole when the 2015 Shriners Open winner walks off the green. It is a dream come true for someone whose parents, Karen Valencia and Michael Valencia, Sr., once feared their son would never walk, much less go on to participate and compete in sports.
Michael was born with hemihyperplasia, a condition that causes asymmetric overgrowth of one or more regions of the body. In Michael’s case, an overgrowth of fatty tissue throughout his body’s left side caused him to be born with a swollen, baseball-sized foot.
When Michael was just a few weeks of age, his pediatrician referred him to Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California. Without a cure for the condition, Michael’s left foot was amputated at the young age of 15 months, and he was fitted for a prosthesis that extends from his knee. Since then, Michael has been fitted for nearly 20 prostheses − all custom designed and fabricated by Rick Wilcox, a certified prosthetist at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California. Of his experience with the staff of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California, Michael states, “They’re there to help your whole body and make you feel more comfortable with yourself.”
Click here to watch Michael’s interview on Good Day Sacramento.
About the 2015 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open:
The 2015 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open brings the FedExCup to Las Vegas as the PGA TOUR returns to the Las Vegas valley for the 33rd consecutive year. Many of the top golfers in the world will participate in the competition and help support the mission of Shriners Hospitals for Children, from October 19–25 at TPC Summerlin. For more information, visit shrinershospitalsopen.com.