Story by Jon Dinan
CALLICOON “Golf is much more enjoyable now that I don’t have to see all the problems,” said 62 year-old, Callicoon resident, Steve Luty, an avid golfer who also happens to be an amputee.
A condition such as Luty’s would create a myriad of problems for most golfers. For him, it rekindled his love of the game he’s been playing since he was nine years old.
Once a scratch golfer, and successful amateur player, Steve now struggles to play bogey golf, but his potentially devastating incident has changed his outlook and attitude toward the sport.
“I waited a very long time to be able to enjoy a golf course again.” Luty remarked.
Six years to be exact. In 2006 surgical complications from knee replacement surgery caused Luty to develop a bone infection called osteomyelitis in his right leg.
By late 2007, Luty thought he had been rid of the infection. But he was improperly treated and it developed into MRSA, a form of Staphylococcus bacteria resistant to many antibiotics.
The MRSA ate away Luty’s leg from his thigh down. By January 2010, his leg was so heavily damaged that it had to be removed. After the amputation, all he was left with was the upper half of his thigh.
Six months later in July, Luty got his first manual prosthetic. The plastic, no-frills limb was uncomfortable and his mobility was still limited.
Luty needed something that would allow him more stability and a wider range of movement, so he had himself fitted for a computerized leg or C-leg.
He saw a vast improvement in his balance and movement but was still not able to golf without tremendous pain and inconsistency.
“I couldn’t break 60 for nine holes.” he confessed. “There were days when I wanted to just give up because the pain was so unmerciful, but I knew in my heart that a better day would come.”
Because Luty was a highly active amputee, doctors thought it was necessary to provide him a X2 bionic leg in 2011. The X2 prosthetic is designed for amputees with a more vigorous lifestyle. It’s equipped with microprocessors and gyroscopes that detect subtle changes in terrain, anticipate movement, and allow for steadier balance when shifting weight and bending at the knee.
It is also lighter, more compact, and has 4 times more battery capacity than the C-leg.
Last summer, Luty was expecting to have fun with his new leg. “2011 was supposed to be the ‘Summer of Steve,’” he said jokingly.
Unfortunately those plans were derailed when he came down with pneumonia. So this year has been his first opportunity to gauge how effectively the X2 complements his golf game.
Since wearing the X2, Luty has dropped about 10 strokes and seen an increase in his stamina. For the first time in a long time, he’s been able to play with confidence.
“I just now graduated to playing 18 again. I can usually go about 14 before I get tired.” Luty noted. “Golf is very therapeutic. I still have some work to do, and I still have pain everyday, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Luty has even begun to compete again as a member of the Eastern Amputee Golf Association, which holds a tournament every month.
“It fits me to a tee,” he said, no pun intended. “Matches are only nine holes, so I have plenty of strength for them, and I get a chance to feel that competitiveness I was missing.
“They’re a good group of guys. They’re really fun, really good, and they show me no mercy.”
He also plays in the Villa Roma Tuesday Night Men’s League. His partner in the league, Scott McConnell, has served as a source of encouragement, and support for Luty.
“Scott is very helpful and he has been a great partner.” Luty said.
McConnell is a former assistant greenskeeper at Villa Roma who worked with Luty when he was the golf course superintendent, a position he was given after he helped build the course back in the mid 1980s. It was a job he was well-qualified for with his degree in Turfgrass Management from Michigan State.
Luty supervised the course maintenance with tremendous pride from 1985-2000, but it was a task he admits took away much of his golfing fervor.
“Being super makes the game not much fun,” Luty recalled.
Now his passion has been restored. He insists he couldn’t have done it without the encouragement of his family and peers.
“It got to a point where every third time out I wanted to quit, but a lot of people gave me a lot of positive input,” said Luty. “ And this game is all about having the right attitude.”
One of those ardent supporters is his wife Peg, who tirelessly has helped him through everything.
“It was hard, but you do what you have to do,” said Peg. “He was a hero through all of it. He really rose to the occasion and we all rallied around him.”
Luty wanted to specifically thank two other people who have “rallied” to his side Villa Roma owner Marty Passante and Director of Golf Matt Kleiner.
LIFE WITH LUTY
Who: Steve Luty
Occupation: Former greens superintendent at Villa Roma (1985-2000).
Education: Degree in Turf Management from Michigan State.
Handicap: Amputated leg; former scratch golfer
Family: Wife, Peg; children Tara and Brad