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Pro helps young Adams County golfer fight Kostmann’s syndrome

New Oxford Middle School eighth grader Sophia Moores, an avid junior golfer from Abbottstown, wants nothing more than to play golf with her dad Jon this summer. But making a game these days has been difficult for her as she’s spent the past years battling Kostmann’s syndrome, a very rare, congenital blood disease in which her body does not produce adequate white blood cells to fight off infections. 

Sophia’s battle with the disease and the resulting sepsis has lasted her lifetime, including an 8-minute period of cardiac arrest and dozens of surgeries.  Sophia’s mom, Mary Moores, said Sophia had spent 9 months in the hospital during 2021.

Sophia has participated in the local York County Junior Golf Association, the Under Armour Junior Tour, and the PGA Jr. League. “These are tournament-style leagues, she said, “where you travel with your team to play.” Sophia said she had received first place in pitching and putting and third place in driving at a Drive, Pitch, and Putt competition held at the Hanover Country Club.

Sophia attributes her love of golf to her family. “When I saw my older sister Ella and my dad play golf I wanted to join them.  I’ve grown up with the love of golf,” she said.

While Sophia was being treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a nurse told her mother about the Begin Again Foundation, a program that aims to save lives through sepsis and toxic shock syndrome education and awareness, provide financial assistance to survivors and families, and support communities during times of crisis. 

The foundation is the work of Australian professional golfer Marc Leishman. Leishman has financially supported Sophia’s treatment and met her in Florida at the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament earlier this month for a golf lesson and some words of encouragement for her recovery and rehabilitation.

Meeting with Leishman was so cool,” said Sophia. “The whole process was so amazing. I saw the TV interview with Rory McIlroy and he signed my pennant. They led us through every step.” 

Sophia’s lesson with Leishman focused on putter and wedges because Sophia is not strong enough to swing any other clubs right now.

Sophia said Leishman showed her new ways to practice and tweak her swing.  “He practiced trying to hit the flagpole every time while he was chipping,” she said. “He explained things really well.”

Leishman’s interest is sepsis is in part because his wife Audrey is a sepsis survivor like Sophia.

Sophia knows continuing with her sport it will be a difficult process, but she remains optimistic. “It’s a slow process. The most I can to is to putt and chip.  Walking is going to be a lot for me,” she said.

Sophia’s golf heroes, including Leishman and McIlroy, as well as LPGA golfer Lexi Thompson, give her courage to keep practicing.  “I was practicing every day,” she said, and now I practice chipping in my back yard.” Sophia said she drew inspiration from how Tiger Woods overcame injuries that threatened his career.

“We’re good.  We just had this amazing trip to Florida.  We did pace it,” said Mary. “This year is looking better.”

The Begin Again Foundation has now aided more than 400 survivors and distributed more than $1 million.

“I love golf because it’s a sport you can play with anyone at any level,” said Sophia.

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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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