Every time Kenny Bontz of Jumping Brook plays in an NJSGA event, he’s a shoo-in for “Most Courageous Golfer” of the tournament.
In 2006, Bontz made the decision to have his left leg amputated just above the knee, ending a 17-year battle with the malady (Ewing’s sarcoma), a type of cancer that had plagued him since he was 19 years old.
By 2006, Bontz was in such pain that he was taking 36 Vicodins per day, a powerful pain killer to which he was becoming addicted.
By this time, Bontz said the limb was “pretty much bone wrapped in skin.” He had had so many surgeries to try and correct the problem – including five knee replacements and tibia allografts – that he had reached the decision to amputate.
“The surgeon kept saying he could fix it. I couldn’t keep going on that path with those pain killers. I had the amputation done and four days later, I was on a golf course. I'm so happy with the decision I made."
It hasn’t been easy for Bontz, a scratch golfer who boasts a low round of 65, to adjust to a prosthetic. A diabetic, changes in his weight mean he needs an adjustment with the prosthetic. “It’s a never-ending battle with my weight, then having to have the prosthetic adjusted again.”
Bontz, who owns a landscaping company after running a commercial printing operation, lives adjacent to Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club in Farmingdale. His home is located close by the sixth tee.
“I had been a member and club champion at Jumping Brook, but I couldn’t take the hills and undulations there. I joined Suneagles in 2008 and won a club championship there.
“I got used to the prosthetic and went back to Jumping Brook and in 2012, I won my third club championship.”
Thanks to the 2001 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of PGA Tour player Casey Martin to ride under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Bontz is allowed to play with the use of a cart. In fact, he was the first golfer in New Jersey allowed to use a cart in NJSGA events. He otherwise would not be able to compete.
“I’ve played in one State Amateur, but my goal since I had the amputation, is to play in the State Amateur and State Open and make the cut,” said Bontz, who plays regularly in regional and national events for amputees.
Last summer, he played in 17 of those events, up and down the east coast, in Arizona, Dallas and Indiana, and took excursions to Sweden and Australia. He won 14 of the 17 events he competed in, including one in Australia. He placed third in the National Amputees championship.
“This is my eighth year playing as an amputee. When I first started, I was interested in seeing how people moved around. I would bounce ideas off them. It is a great peer group, and I’m meeting people from all over the country. Now, I’m the guy who can give them answers and ideas.”
Bontz has qualified to play in the NJSGA Mid-Amateur and appeared in the 2013 event at Trump National in Bedminster, but failed to make the cut. In 2010 at Galloway National, he reached the Round of 16 before losing to Mike Stamberger of Spring Lake, the reigning State Amateur champion. Bontz won the first two holes of the match before Stamberger played at 7-under par to close out the match on the 14thhole.
“I’m not looking to win the State Open or State Amateur. I want to make the cut. My other goals are to win the Eastern Regional and Nationals of the amputee tournaments.
“There’s a lot of kids that hit the ball 70-80 yards past me. I’m a short hitter, so I have to be better than they are around the greens. And I’m a good putter. Yes, I’m very competitive. I’m not playing for second place,” said Bontz, who turns 44 on March 5.
“I feel really good about the upcoming season.”