Pa. man who lost part of leg at age of 4 is top-ranked amateur disabled golfer in U.S.

The loss of a leg below the knee would for most youngsters dash their dream of playing big-time sports but not Jeremy Bittner.At age, 34, the Williamsport native is one of the top disabled golfers in the world and has been invited to play in the Golf for the Disabled Tour (G4D) in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 13-14.It will be held in conjunction with the European Tour so golfers like Bittner will be competing among themselves on the same course being used by the professionals but just for 36 holes.Sports have been part of Bittner’s life beginning at a young age despite losing part of his left leg when a tractor mower driven by his father Scott ran over him when he was 4.He played baseball (Little League and Babe Ruth) and basketball, swam, bowled and skied.In January 1998 he played two quarters in a John H. Bower Sunday School League game in Williamsport on one leg. He was not wearing a prosthesis because recent surgery had not healed.His dad was the coach of the St. Mark’s Lutheran team, which had only five players that day. Jeremy was on the bench in uniform but not expecting to play.His father asked him if he wanted to go in after one of the players suffered an asthma attack. He hopped up and down the court on one leg for two quarters.At the time Bittner said he wanted to be a professional baseball or basketball player when he grew up. It turned out golf was his game. He is ranked 11th in the world among golfers with disabilities.Bittner played golf at Williamsport Area High School from which he graduated in 2007. Charles Rulapaugh, a former pro at the White Deer Golf Course in Lycoming County, told him about the Eastern Amputee Golf Association, he said.He played a couple tournaments a year, his first was in Carlisle, he said. Golf took a backseat while he attended Robert Morris University, graduating with a degree in sports management.He is general manager of the Drury Plaza Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.Bittner said he got back into golf in the 2017-18 time frame, obtained sponsors, took vacation and started touring the country playing in tournaments for disabled golfers.Disabled golfers were included in world rankings for the first time in 2019 but there were no Americans in the top 500 due the lack of tournaments compared with Europe, he explained.Bittner currently is the top-ranked amateur disabled golfer in the country and second when including professionals.He made the news in July when he had a hole-in-one on the par 3 fourth hole in the second round of the United States Golf Association’s (USGA) inaugural Adaptive Open Championship at Pinehurst, North Carolina. Golf Digest wrote that he was the first to accomplish that, and the ball is now in the USGA Golf Museum in Liberty Corner, New Jersey.The invitation to play in the United Arab Emirates “kind of came out of nowhere,” he said.Because of the time difference, he said he got the email at 2:30 a.m. “I didn’t think it was legit,” he said.His expenses are fully paid and he will be taking a caddie, a friend from his college days.Jeremiah Bittner shows off his
dribbling skills in his basement at home, in a photo taken in 1998.Harrisburg Patriot-News“I will play my game and soak it all in,” Bittner said about the trip. “It’s an honor to be invited.”Not accompanying him will be his wife Darlene and their three children, ages 1, 6 and 9. His wife is missing her right hand but does not wear a prosthesis, he said.“We’re proud of him for how far he has come,” said his mother Brenda, speaking for herself and her husband. Bittner, who lives in Moon Twp. outside Pittsburgh, said, “I’m doing good keeping a golf as a hobby. I want to keep it something I’m looking forward to, not a job.”Another reason for not turning pro, he said, isthat golf could be added to the 2028 paralympic games and he would be eligible only as an amateur.He also is playing wheelchair basketball with the Steelwheelers in Pittsburgh, a new sport for him.His boss when he interned with the Pittsburgh Pirates was in a wheelchair and tried to get him to come to a practice, he said.He eventually played in a charity event and said, “I had such a good time. It was a new challenge.” He still gets blisters on his hands, he said.As a youngster he was a regular at Penn State Hershey Medical Center because that is where he was taken every 10 or 11 months to be fitted for a new prosthetic because he would outgrow the one he had.More:Ex-Pa. state prison guard settles hostile work environment suit for $80KJudge rejects self-defense argument, holds Pa. man for trial in homicide case

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