Ever since he was born, Steve Day has had a special connection to the game of golf.
The house he grew up in was located on the 13th hole of the Jeffersonville Elks Golf Club. His family, particularly his grandfather George Roy and his father Don, loved playing the sport.
The first time Day played golf was when he was 6 years old, as he and several family members participated in a round of golf at Twilight Golf Course in Jeffersonville. As soon as Day swung a club, he was instantly hooked on the game. Day went on to play for the Providence High School boys’ golf team for four years and compete in national tournaments.
The 49-year-old still lives on a golf course, as his house is located on the 10th hole at Covered Bridge Golf Club.
“My father and grandfather were very influential. My grandfather spent every off-day on the golf course. My passion for golf is through my family,” Day said. “It’s the ultimate imperfect game. Until you score 18 on an 18-hole golf course, you are always going to think you could’ve done better.”
But Day has had to battle a major obstacle throughout his life to experience his passion.
Day was born without his lower left forearm, which the doctors called a congenital birth defect. But that disability has never stopped Day from playing the game he loves — and playing it well.
“His overall work ethic and determination have gotten him this far,” said Joe Frederick, Day’s cousin and his former swing coach. “He’s never considered himself handicapped. He has proven that he can do whatever he wants to do. I worked with him like any golfer. It was no different working with Steve than anybody else.”
Day says when he plays, all he wants is for his fellow golfers to treat him like any ordinary golfer.
“You get a lot of funny looks on the practice range. But it turns from disbelief to amazement when they see me play,” Day said. “I’ve always wanted to be treated like anybody else, but you get a raised eyebrow.
“I don’t want to be considered superhuman. I just wanted to be considered a normal guy playing a tough game.”
Day has had his share of success on the links using just one arm. The 1981 Providence graduate and 1985 Indiana University alumnus won the National Amputee Golf Association junior championship in back-to-back years in 1980 and 1981. In 2004, Day won the North American One-Armed Golfer Association championship at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club near Chicago. Day finished runner-up for the NAOAGA title in 2009 and 2010.
Starting today, Day will be competing in one of the biggest one-armed golf tournaments in the world. Day and 11 other one-armed golfers from North America will face a 12-member one-armed team from Europe in the third Fightmaster Cup at the Hilton Indian Lakes Resort in Chicago in a Ryder Cup-style tournament. The tournament will last through Sunday.
Like the Ryder Cup, which will be played Sept. 28-30 at Medinah Country Club near Chicago, the first two days of the Fightmaster Cup on Friday and Saturday will consist of a four-ball competition in the morning and a foursomes competition in the afternoon. On Sunday, the Fightmaster Cup will conclude with 12 individual matches.
Day has competed in the previous two Fightmaster Cups. In 2008, he helped North America defeat Europe to claim the first Fightmaster Cup at the Cardinal Club in Simpsonville, Ky., 19 1/2-18 1/2. But Europe paid back North America in 2010 in Wales by capturing the cup for the first time, 15-13.
Day says he and his teammates are focused on reclaiming the Fightmaster Cup this weekend.
“To us, it’s every bit as intense [as the Ryder Cup],” said Day, who says he wants to be the captain of the North American team in the future. “We take it very seriously. It’s very desirable to be on the team.”
Day thinks there will be several keys in North America’s attempt to win this weekend.
“Given its match play, the goal is to beat your opponent on each hole. You try not to focus on the score,” Day said. “Playing in the Fightmaster Cup employs a different mindset. Chemistry is a big part of it and it’s important for the captain to put in his best combination.
“When it comes to Sunday, it’s just determination. Sometimes aggressive play pays off and sometimes conservative play pays off. It just depends on your opponent’s position.”
Sellersburg resident Mike Joksimovic, who is Day’s best friend and will be Day’s caddy for the third time at the Fightmaster Cup, thinks this year’s North America squad is tighter-knit than the one in 2010.
“This team is much stronger than they were in Wales,” said Joksimovic, who lives right across from Day on the 10th fairway at Covered Bridge. “I feel some of the additions and some of the subtractions from the 2010 team have made them a tighter team. It just seems more team-oriented this time around.”
No two people know Day’s game better than Frederick and Joksimovic.
Frederick says Day’s short game has always given him an edge over the competition.
“His strength throughout his whole career has been his short game,” said Frederick, who is the head golf professional at Polo Fields Golf and Country Club in Louisville and the former head golf pro at the Jeff Elks. “He’s exceptional in that area as far as chipping and putting is concerned. In the short-game area, he has a good imagination. He has incredible touch and feel around the greens.”
Day, who is a 12 handicap, averages about 220 yards in driving distance. Frederick has worked with Day in the past in trying to add distance to his drives and approach shots.
“We worked on tightening up his swing and hitting it farther,” Frederick said. “We also worked on his carry distance, which is how far the ball carries on his iron shots.”
Joksimovic agrees with Frederick that Day’s main strength is his short game. But Joksimovic, who plays the most golf with Day, says his friend’s other strength is his mental toughness.
“He’s called a grinder. He never gives up on a hole or in a match,” Joksimovic said.
Joksimovic also credits Day’s conditioning for giving him an advantage on the golf course. Joksimovic says Day competed in a triathlon this summer.
“Him and his wife Lisa work out religiously and that’s helped him,” Joksimovic said. “It’s carried over to his golf game.”
For the past two years, Day has passed on his knowledge of golf to younger players as he is an assistant coach for the Providence boys’ golf team. Day says several of the Pioneers, especially the new ones, have plenty of questions about his handicap and how he swings a golf club.
“It does come up because I get a lot of questions from the boys,” Day said. “But what I tell the boys is the same principles apply. They are real curious how I [swing a club]. They do get a kick out of what I’ve accomplished.
“They get a chuckle when I win bets against two-armed guys.”
Providence boys’ golf coach Ken Allender says Day has definitely been a positive influence on his players.
“Their initial reaction to him is they really don’t know what to think about him,” Allender said. “But that’s short-lived when they find out how personal he is and how knowledgeable he is about the game of golf.
“Steve doesn’t look at his handicap as a disability. Steve is always upbeat and quite a mentor for them.”
Golf is not the only passion in Day’s life. Day and a few of his high school friends are in a rock band, called “Lefty and the Lunatics.” Day, who is nicknamed Lefty, is the lead singer and plays trumpet and drums. The band has been together for 22 years and Day says they have between five to six performances per year.
STEVE DAY FILE
• AGE: 49
• RESIDENCE: Sellersburg (Covered Bridge)
• HIGH SCHOOL ALMA MATER: Providence, 1981 graduate
• COLLEGE ALMA MATER: Indiana, 1985 graduate
• OCCUPATION: Bond trader
• GOLF ACHIEVEMENTS: National Amputee Golf Association junior champion, 1980 and 1981; North American One-Armed Golfer Association champion, 2004; North American One-Armed Golfer Association runner-up, 2009 and 2010; member of the North America team for the Fightmaster Cup in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Local man to compete in one of world’s biggest one-armed golf tournaments
Ever since he was born, Steve Day has had a special connection to the game of golf.
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