An Unexpected Challenge

It should have been a great year. Dakota had just made the soccer team and was looking forward to anchoring the squad as goalie. At a Lobos soccer picnic, his parents noticed Dakota’s neck was abnormally swollen. A doctor visit led to an emergency scan at a local hospital which led to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a scary diagnosis: leukemia. During almost three years of cancer treatment, Dakota suffered through a range of painful side effects, including pancreatitis, mucositis and foot drop along with a terrible migraine after every chemo treatment. But Dakota persevered, relearning his fine motor skills and graduating from a wheelchair to a walker.

When it became obvious that soccer and other sports were off the table, Dakota turned to golf. Each month, his cancer got a little better. So did his golf game.

He got stronger and stronger, eventually managing to walk the golf course under his own power, even as treatment continued. In fact, Dakota broke 70 for the very first time during the final middle school tournament of the year, two days after undergoing chemo.

He began competing in the PGA Jr. League and was part of a Jr. PGA All-Star team that won a state championship. Dakota would go for his treatments, then head to the golf course to play matches.

His plans are to play NCAA Division I golf, followed by a long and successful career as a pro. “I want to take it all the way,” says Dakota about his golf plans. “That’s my goal.”