The traumatic brain injury that led to a lifelong love for golf
Deegan Bee is a 13-year-old who enjoys playing golf after successfully healing from sustaining a TBI.
“The doctors said that I was lucky to be alive,” said Deegan Bee, a 13-year-old junior golf phenom who has been traveling the country to compete in high-stakes golf tournaments. Bee’s path to discovering his love for the game of golf was a bit different; he discovered the game after a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, that left him having to re-learn how to walk and write.
At 7 years old, Bee had a traumatic brain injury that had him rushed to the emergency room at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I was flatlined in the emergency room and unconscious for three days," Bee said. "I had to stay in the hospital for about three weeks afterwards… I don’t really remember anything from that time.”
Deegan and his father, Jeremy Bee, come from a family of motocross racers. Deegan grew up racing and became a town celebrity known for his impeccable racing skills at such a young age. On Father’s Day six years ago, Deegan gave his father something that no parent can even fathom the repercussions of.
“I was seven years old. I was at this dirt bike track; it was a practice round for a big event. So, on the last lap, last jump, I almost cleared a seventy-foot jump, but my bike was sideways and before I landed, the bike ejected me off and I landed with my head down first,” said Bee. “As soon as I got to the hospital, I flatlined. I was unconscious for three days and spent three weeks in the hospital."
With the TBI, Deegan couldn’t live the life he had been living for the past seven years. He wasn’t allowed to continue dirt biking or playing with his friends during recess at school.
“When he got into his accident, his character, his personality was a little taken away," Jeremy Bee said. "He went through a little depression not knowing who he was, but golf has brought that back to him. Instead of being that motocross racer, he’s known as that little kid who can golf and shoot in the 70s… It’s very cool what golf has done for him.”
“I had the option of a fishing pole, guitar or a set of golf clubs,” Deegan said. “I hate taking the fish off the hook and I’m terrible at playing the guitar, so… I just started practicing every day, and in five years, I got to the [JPGA] National Championships.”
Currently, Deegan is shooting around mid-70s on an 18-hole round of golf, meaning he is around the top 8% of golfers in the world in terms of his handicap, a feat that the vast majority of golfers will not accomplish in their lifetime.
The hardest part of it all? Deegan says he wasn’t able to spend time with his friends at recess or gym after the TBI because of the increased risk for potential injury.
On Father’s Day in 2013, Jeremy Dee had to deal with the “hardest, upfront advice” that someone has ever given him.
“You’re lucky your son wants to here,” said one of the health care workers in charge of Deegan’s case after he recovered from his flatline in the emergency room.
After Deegan had regained consciousness, one of the doctors told him and his father that Deegan “could be the next Rickie Fowler.” They both responded, “Who’s that?”
One of the people at Bee's local church played college golf and offered to help Deegan learn some basics of the sport. He came over to their house a few times, and he noticed that Deegan had an awe-inspiring amount of potential just by looking at Deegan's fundamentally sound golf swing.
A few months later, Deegan and Jeremy showed up to a junior golf tournament to get a feel for what tournament golf is like. Even though the results did not turn out as well as they would have liked, they gained something invaluable: experience.
From that point, it was game over for every other junior golfer in Ohio. Deegan took the local golf tournaments by storm and eventually placed 85th in the World Championships after just five years of playing.
“He never gives up. It’s awesome to watch," Jeremy Bee said. "It’s a hard sport to grasp and you get those downfalls where things aren’t going right, but he never stops… I’ve made a deal with him to take him as far as he wants to go and I will continue to do that.”
As a near-scratch golfer and someone making strides on the national level, Deegan Bee advises people going through tough times: “Don’t give up and go wherever the path takes you.”
In the future, the 13-year-old golf sensation hopes to either play professionally or teach kids for a living. Deegan said simply, “I love golf and I’m never going to give up.”
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