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TEE TIME: Jonesborough youth refuses to let diabetes get in the way of his beloved golf game

For all that life offers, finding that which we are truly passionate about can be one of the most rewarding endeavors of our journey. At just 9-years-old, Noah Turner has already found his passion, reflected in the dew-soaked morning greens, the reverberating ping of club meeting ball and the spirit of competition.
Whether Noah found golf or golf found him, his passion was ignited two years ago as the game he just can’t get enough of became a way of life and a dream for his future.
“Noah started at 7 1/2 years old on the driving range with a small set of clubs that we had picked up for him. It became something that just grew from there,” Noah’s father, Brian Turner, said. “We never actually intended for him to play at this level, but after he picked up his first club and hit a ball, he became obsessed with it.”
From his first swing that day at the driving range, it was evident that Noah was a natural. His swing was pure, one that can’t be taught.
But Noah’s story isn’t just about a young golfer’s ascent on the links. It’s also a testament to overcoming adversity and refusing to allow limitations to define his life.
During every moment Noah is on the course, an insulin pump that he wears all the time can be found with him. At just 8 months old, Noah was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“He was hospitalized for 10 days when we first found out,” Brian said. “It was kind of touch and go when he was diagnosed. He is now on an insulin pump that he wears with him all the time.”
Noah will have to live with the condition for the rest of his life, but he refuses to let it slow him down.
“Even with diabetes, I have learned that I can do anything that anyone else can do,” he said.
His passion for golf has helped him triumph over diabetes, and his parents Brian and Amy, who are both avid golfers, have encouraged his love and participation in the sport.
“I think a lot of parents try to micromanage their kids who have type 1 diabetes and won’t allow them to do many of the things that other kids get to do,” Brian said. “But we have encouraged his participation in the game.
“Golf is a great sport for diabetics because there is a lot of walking involved. The walking keeps his blood sugar in check and golf is a lifetime sport. Even when he becomes an old man, he’ll still be able to play.”
Soon after taking his first swings with a club, Noah took a handful of lessons and participated in a few golf clinics before taking his game to the course.
His affection for golf only grew as his game progressed.
“He most definitely has a love for the game, a passion for it,” Brian said. “I have seen him fall asleep with a putter in his hands, and his first words of the day is ‘when is my tee-time?’ Even when we are on vacation, he doesn’t want a break from it. He takes his clubs everywhere we go.”
While youth golfing is often met with hesitation and even resistance at many clubs and courses, the Turners’ home course at Blackthorn Club at the Ridges encourages youth golfing and the course offers junior tee boxes. Noah fits right in.
“Everybody at the club really rallied around him and encouraged his game,” Brian said. “He has never had a discouraging word about not being able to do something and has received so many pointers from more mature golfers.”
Head pro at Blackthorn, Graham Enloe, has been Noah’s coach since giving him his first lesson and has guided the young golfer as his game excelled and he entered competitive play.
Over the past year and beginning again this spring, Noah will participate in multiple golf events that will take him to courses in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
In 2013, he participated in the Junior PGA Tour, a team competition where Noah placed second. He also played in the Western North Carolina U.S. Kids Tour where he ranked in the top five in his division.
Noah will begin a spring tour this year with the Junior Tennessee Golf Association, as well as resume playing in the Junior PGA Tour.
In March, he will take part in the Jekyll Island Cup, a two-day, 36-hole event where his scoring will determine his entrance at a Pinehurst competition in the summer. Noah also has been invited to play in the Junior Texas Open in Austin this coming May.
A normal week for the young golfer consists of four to five hours of practice each day and, if the weather is good, he averages 54 holes per week.
When asked what his favorite aspect of golf is, Noah was quick to say that he couldn’t choose just one thing because he likes it all so well.
Noah is homeschooled, and said he chooses to take on the rigorous schedule because of his immense love for the game and a competitive desire to compete to the best of his ability.
According to the young golfer, he has found one thing he enjoys doing more than anything else and wants to do it well.
“We don’t ever put any pressure on him to play, and we would not think any differently if he didn’t want to play anymore,” Brian said.
“We take great pride seeing him do something to the best of his ability, and it has always been a goal of ours to treat Noah as any other child, despite his diabetes. We have wanted him to know that he can do anything anyone else can do.”
Noah’s maturity is evident when he enters tournament play, where, according to his father, he goes from 9 years old to 30 in one swing of the club.
“When Noah competes, his mind just goes into a different mode,” Brian said. “I have caddied for him before and when he gets out there, his demeanor changes. He becomes very serious and doesn’t turn it off until he’s finished.”
Outside of golf, Noah excels in academics, where his favorite subject is math. He loves being outside, going to the beach and to history museums. He attends Jonesborough United Methodist Church with his family.
Noah also recognizes and appreciates the extraordinary support of his club, family and friends who have encouraged his passion for golf.
His love for the game has also set his future aspirations in motion. Like many kids, Noah’s dream is to play professionally on the PGA tour, just like his two favorite professional golfers, Ricky Fowler and Ian Poulter.
“When I grow up, I would love to play professionally,” Noah said. “That is my dream.”
But the difference between Noah and others who share a similar dream may be his relentless work ethic and tremendous passion for a sport that has guided his natural ability and led him through adversity. If indeed Noah is one day teeing off on the PGA tour, it will come as little surprise to those who know him best.