If someone tells me “You can’t do this,” I go, “well, watch this real quick.”
– Jared Brentz
One of the best stories of 2014 Red Sox spring training was outfielder Bryce Brentz, who tore up Grapefruit League pitching for a .409 average with three home runs and seven RBI in just 22 at-bats.
Bryce’s twin brother Jared is tearing up the golf course. And it’s quite a story.
Jared Brentz is the reigning Amputee Long Drive champion. He can slug a golf ball close to 400 yards. And he’s doing it after making the difficult decision to have a double amputation at the age of twelve.
The 25-year old leads a group of talented competitors into this week’s ParaLong Drive Nationals in Mesquite, NV.
Dean Jarvis, founder of the Amputee Long Drive Championship, told me a story about meeting Jared. Jarvis met Bryce and Jared’s father, Charlie, on the golf course.
“We’re talking and he goes, “My son can hit the ball a long way. Sometimes he hits the ball over these holes.”
“I did the math and that’s 350 yards. The following week, I saw him hit it 40 yards past a 320 yard, Par 4.”
Jarvis organized the first Amputee Long Drive Championship last July. One of the major motivators was the addition of golf to the 2016 Olympic Games, but not the Paralympics. The exclusion has a major impact on the athletes — and while ParaLong drive is a great rehabilitation option beyond the gym or pool, there wasn’t an event to showcase their talents.
Jared won the inaugural event with a 367-yard bomb.
Just think of how many athletes who think their days of competing in sports are over — then you’ve got Jared.
- Dean Jarvis
Growing up, the ultra-competitive Brentz was crazy about sports. He describes the time spent in the Shriner’s gymnasium when he couldn’t sleep after the operation, doing quarterback drills from a wheelchair with his father. “We threw for hours and hours…there were these kites on the ceiling in there. I kept building up my arm strength and once we started hitting the kites, we had to take it outside.”
The operation freed Jared from the constraints of the wheelchair and he went on to be a varsity golfer and wrestler in high school. While he played baseball with Bryce and possessed bruising line drive power, his speed around the base paths was not optimal. Now, he bruises golf balls.
“Jared’s talent has the potential to do a lot of good for a lot of people,” says Jarvis. It starts with this week’s event in Mesquite. Jarvis credits the 40-plus volunteers helping host the showcase, which of course goes beyond golf: 3-D printing company Stratasys is a major sponsor and a brain-powered prosthetic arm was recently developed using 3-D printing technology. ParaLong Drive events also help support the mission of the Jordan Thomas Foundation, which provides prostheses for children of traumatic injury.
Brentz and Jarvis continue the push for golf’s inclusion in the Paralympics through Long Drive. I asked Jared about the opportunity to one day participate. “Oh,” he said as his voice trailed off. “I’d be going!”
For now, expenses for the athletes come out-of-pocket. Jarvis cites golf, specifically Long Drive as a rehabilitation opportunity for Wounded Warriors, but a VA stipend is only available for Paralympic sports; not for golf.
Brentz and Jarvis hope the “made for TV” nature of Long Drive attracts an audience and brings recognition to the Paralympic campaign. The event in Mesquite will tee off with an Olympic Day opening ceremony. “It only takes one big sponsor,” Jared notes.
The hope is that momentum for ParaLong Drive will continue to build through the events this year: a return to Tennessee in July and back to Mesquite this fall for a World Championship showcase with competitors from across the globe. There are also opportunities for promotion with the Golf Channel and October’s Shriner’s Open. And Jared will likely be in the middle of the action.
“He’s an unreal athlete,” Jarvis says. “When I’m out there hitting, I wonder — is Jared going to beat me by an entire football field?”