Living for the links

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Local seventh grader doesn't let cystic fibrosis get in the way of his golf game

By Mike Forster


He's a golfer.

Sure, he deals with a dreadful disease on a daily basis.  Yes, he takes 11 different medications to treat his cystic fibrosis.

Indeed, he endures two 30-minute respiratory treatments each day, as well as sessions with a nebulizer to help his breathing.

True, he must visit the Medical Center at the University of Virginia for tests and check-ups every three months.

But none of that defines young Jacob Aultice.  He is, first and foremost, a golfer.  He just happens to be a golfer who has a crummy disease.

Some turn lemons into lemonade.  Jacob turns them into lemon meringue pie.  Recently, he parlayed his love of golf into a way to help uncover a cure for cystic fibrosis.  Last Friday, he and 28 other duffers took to the links at Bedford Country Club in a fund-raising effort.  It was part of a weekend-long effort to bring attention and needed funding to combating CF.  On Saturday, "Team Jacob" participated in the Lynchburg "Great Strides" march.  

"I did pretty well," said Jacob of his day on the links.  "I had some nice shots."

In all, Jacob and his supporters were able to raise approximately $10,000 for the Virginia chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

That money is certainly needed, especially since CF is considered to be an "orphan disease," according to LaDonna Austin, Development Director with the Virginia chapter.

An orphan disease is one which is not supported by the National Institute of Health, due to the relatively small numbers of affected people.  In Virginia, approximately 700 people suffer from CF, according to Austin.

The disease is present at birth, and is a function of genetic mutation and is typically identified during newborn screenings.  It is not contagious.

"In general, cystic fibrosis is a very serious condition," stated Dr. Mark Kleiner, of Central Virginia Family Physicians, in Forest.  "While it is relatively rare, its impact can be quite significant on those who suffer from the condition.  The disease is especially rough on the respiratory system and digestive tract and treatments can be quite onerous."

CF manifests itself in ailments affecting the lungs, specifically the accumulation of mucus in those organs.  Additionally, the disease can make digestion difficult, necessitating the ingestion of high-caloric foods.

In the not-too-distant past, the disease meant a short life span for those who had it.  Advancements in knowledge of the disease and how to treat it, however, have manifested in vast improvements.  Thirty years ago, CF patients rarely made it past their teenage years.  Today, the median life expectancy has increased to 40 years of age.  In fact, that number is an increase of six years from what was expected in 2008.

While Jacob takes his condition seriously, he seems more intent on his golf game.  

"He started playing when he was two years old," recalled his mother, Leigh Ann Aultice.  "My husband was flipping through the TV channels.  He changed off from golf and Jacob got agitated.  When he switched back, Jacob was OK.

"We bought him a Fisher-Price club, and he's been going  strong since."

Playing from the white tees, Jacob claims to range in score from 42 to 49 for nine holes.  Not bad.

He shares Phil Mickelson's left-handed swing and Bubba Watson's penchant for closing the top button on his golf shirt.

Sharing the same birthday as Bobby Jones, Jacob sports a small clover pendant, just as Jones did 90-odd years ago.

He has some accomplishments to show for his love of the game.  For instance, last year, he was one of two Bedford County golfers to advance to regional play in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, held in Northern Virginia.

Slightly built with a mop of unruly brown hair, Jacob's joie de vivre is palpable.

He doesn't seem to comprehend why others wouldn't get outside and be active.  "If it's nice outside, get out," he advised.  Then, looking around at the drenching rains that had just begun, laughed, "Hey, even if it's NOT nice, get out."

Like any other kid, the Bedford Middle School student enjoys the occasional video game (Tiger Woods golf).  While he plays the Bedford CC course at least a couple of times per week, he makes time to practice the trumpet.  He also professes a love of world history, when it comes to hitting the school books.

In all, he's a typical 13-year-old:  active and vibrant.

"If you do things, it takes your mind off things."

And doing things puts him out on the course, club in hand.

He's a golfer, after all.