In some ways, Parker James is a typical high school senior — visiting colleges, awaiting acceptance letters and hoping for great scholarship offers, while spending his days at school and playing sports.
Parker’s sport of choice these days is golf, and he works hard at it — training every day after classes at Saddlebrook Preparatory School inside Saddlebrook Resort Tampa off S.R. 54 in Wesley Chapel.
Parker (pictured with his golf coach, Nick Dunn) also is getting ready to do something most teenagers don’t — he will host a golf tournament to raise awareness for a health condition he suffers from, Crohn’s disease.
“Crohn’s has shaped my fighter mentality,” says Parker, explaining that fighting his disease has prepared him for the mental challenges of golf. “In golf, you can go out on the course and lose every day. You can always do better, and you have to overcome that.”
He says he’s always loved playing sports, and as a child played baseball, basketball, football, soccer, lacrosse, golf, tennis, even skateboarding and wakeboarding.
His diagnosis at 10 years old with Crohn’s disease changed things for Parker. Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract.
Since then, an ankle injury and a new diagnosis — this time of rheumatoid arthritis —further limited his ability to play most of the sports he loves.
But, Parker found a way to keep his athletic dreams alive, by playing sports that are less strenuous on his joints, especially golf.
And now, he wants to raise awareness about the many people who suffer from Crohn’s, especially those who, like him, are diagnosed as kids.
“I want to inspire other young people to never feel defeated by their illnesses,” Parker says. “Don’t let it hold you back in any shape or form.”
The golf tournament Parker is organizing will be held on Saturday, April 14, at Saddlebrook Resort. All proceeds will benefit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
Players can register a foursome, or sign up to play in a group with an academy student.
To learn more about sponsoring the tournament, to donate or sign up to play, visit GolfForeGuts.com.