Eli Hager practices at his home course. (Observer photo by Diedra Laird)
About a year ago I first heard about Eli Hager, the middle-school golfer with prosthetic legs who plays on the Lincoln Charter Middle School golf team alongside able-bodied golfers in Lincoln County. He had been named MVP of his team in 2012.
By that time, though, his golf season was over. So I kept Eli in the back of my mind, figuring I would write about him in the spring of 2013. The result is this column. I like to diverge from my regular subject matter occasionally -- the Panthers, the Bobcats, college sports -- and write about a young man or woman in the sports world who can inspire others. "The Magic Touch" was another such story that comes to mind -- about two girls who didn't know each other and the moment that linked them in a cross country race.
To write this story, I interviewed Eli and his parents at their home in Alexis, which is on the Gaston-Lincoln County border. I also watched him deliver a 32-minute sermon on "Youth Sunday" at his church and talked to some of the church members there about him, as well as interviewing his golf coach and the school's athletic director.
One side note: I didn't know before writing this how accomplished a waterskier Eli also is, but it turns out that he is also one of the better trick and slalom disabled water skiers in the country. He will take a trip to Milan, Italy, this fall to represent the U.S. in a disabled water skiing competition along with two other Charlotte-area athletes. They are raising money to go on that trip. If you happen to want to help Eli and that team in their fundraising, the contribution is tax-deductible. The address to send contributions is:
Charlotte Disabled Waterski Team
2198 W.T. Carpenter Drive
Lincolnton, NC 28092