In June, Jackson Lindquist lived out every amateur golfer's dream when he teed up for 18 holes at the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links in California. But his course to the tee box was not as straight as his drives down the fairway.
Jackson had his first open-heart surgery when he was just five months old. Born with a congenital heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot with absent pulmonary valve, Jackson would go on to have several more heart surgeries during his childhood. Each time his surgically implanted pulmonary valve stopped working, doctors at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus would replace it.
As we told you last summer, this hasn't stopped Jackson from living an active, athletic lifestyle. In fact, when we last spoke with him, Jackson had just competed in his third straight Wisconsin state high school tennis tournament and was preparing to take his tennis skills with him to college.
There's another sport Jackson enjoys playing just as much: golf. Enter Pebble Beach.
As Jackson's dad, Eric (who was part of his foursome), wrote in the July 8 edition of the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, the trip-of-a-lifetime was made possible by the Round of a Lifetime Foundation. The Baltimore-based nonprofit "grants rounds of golf on world-class courses to people who meet two requirements: They are born with a congenital heart defect and love golf." Jackson, Eric writes, "makes the cut on both counts."
The trip was put into motion when Jackson's pediatric cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, Allison Cabalka, M.D., received an email about the foundation and "immediately thought" of Jackson. "She has witnessed a smiling Jackson carrying his clubs off the 18th green at Madeline Island Golf Club and has fielded questions about how soon he could play golf after a minimally invasive procedure to get a new pulmonary valve at age 15," Eric writes of Dr. Cabalka, adding that, "The answer, by the way, was two days."
Before packing for sunny California, Jackson first had to write an essay and go through a round of interviews with foundation members. After finding out he'd won — becoming just the third recipient in the foundation's history — Jackson was "given the option of three amazing courses," Eric writes. "He quickly settled on Pebble Beach."
And from "the magnificent 'Cliffs of Doom' lining holes eight through 10 to the panoramic views of Carmel Bay and the gorgeous par 5 finishing hole tucked between the clubhouse and the Pacific Ocean," Eric says "the famed seaside links" held true to its reputation. "The whole experience was a treat for the senses," he writes.
It was also full of memories and newfound appreciation. "While we are fortunate Jackson has been generally healthy and able to participate in golf, tennis, soccer, basketball and other sports, the trip was a wonderful reward for a young man who has overcome a lot of obstacles that are not par for the course for most kids," Eric writes.
You can read more about Jackson's day at Pebble Beach here and here. Then go for the green yourself by sharing your comments below. You can use the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.