Caroline Larsson: Amputee golfer extraordinaire!

'I don

Bob Warters's picture
Mon, 9 Sep 2013

Caroline Larsson is your typical Swede - blonde and blue-eyed with a great personality.  'Caro' as she is known to her sister Louise and friends on the Ladies European Tour, is also known as a golfer of extraordinary talent and courage - despite the adversity she has suffered.

I had the privilege to play alongside the 24-year-old in the pro-am ahead of the ISPS Handa Ladies Masters having learned that she had her right leg amputated less than two years ago - just months after surviving the New Zealand February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch where she was enjoying a sightseeing trip in the city when buildings started crumbling around her. 

The two events are unconnected but prove that some of us are dealt a cruel hand more than others and that some, like Caroline, are able to show that regardless of life’s challenges, they can bounce back and make their life all that they wish it to be. 

Having learned the game from the age of eight, Caroline won a golf scholarship to Newberry College in the US aged 19 and despite suffering problems with her knee turned professional in January 2011 while also caddying for her sister who had qualified for the Tour a month earlier.

"I wanted to see how good the girls were on Tour were, so it was a great opportunity to help my sister 'Lollo' and to experience it all, ” she recalled in a recent interview.

"I hoped that all the practice and hard work that l had done would pay off on the ‘Nordea Tour’, the Swedish Tour where many professionals prepare for the LET and grow as a player. At the end of the season, I planned to go to Qualifying School for the Ladies European Tour and join my sister.

In February 2011, the pair travelled to Christchurch,  for the Pegasus New Zealand Ladies Open and stayed to use the practice facilities there and explore the city.

Neither was injured in the earthquake despite the devastation which killed nearly 200 citizens and flattened many buildings. But Caroline returned to Sweden for surgery on her knee only to discover three weeks later that the prognosis was not good.

"l went back to my doctor for another check up and to make sure that everything was improving in my leg but received the most frightening news - the tumour was back in five different places. I had developed

Chondrosarcoma a rare cancer of the muscle and the doctor told me the only thing they could do to save my life was to amputate my leg just above your knee.”

"I felt no fear, she recalled, "I was just so angry and upset. How could this happen to me? I thought my life would end. What was there to live for? I was dizzy and sad. It was like a horrible movie."

However a few days later she sat down at her computer and started planning her new life.

"I was determined not to lie down and cry. The only thing l can do is be thankful for what l still have. l could still achieve my goals in life, reach my dreams and not give up, " she told the LET website.

"I think a lot of my attitude comes from being an athlete. I’m a competitor and giving up does not exist! I decided this was my payment. It didn’t feel fair but l decided to change my attitude and saw a prosthesis as being a part of me."

Three days after surgery she was swinging a golf club.

“l am not angry how my life has changed, but it’s rough sometimes, especially in daily situations. But at the golf course l feel at home, l don’t need my leg when l play, l have fun anyway!

"I have found my strength in people I’ve met along the way, inspirational stories I have found and of course all the support from my family. I don’t want to rush through life, I am taking it more easy now for example, a bogey is not a big deal anymore!"

I can confirm that, despite her prosthetic limb, Caroline is well worthy of her status as a professional golfer. She hits it better than most men off single figures and has a short game to die for.

"My golf is good; it’s not a big change from before, " she says. "My short game is the same, other than the putting.

It is harder to keep my balance now! My long game is also pretty much the same, though I hit the ball a little bit shorter than before!"

She told me the rules of the Tour don't allow for her to caddie for her sister from a buggy, so she caddied for her in the first round of a recent tournament pushing her powered trolley while using a single crutch for stability. 

“My family and friends have been a huge support for me through all this. They have accepted it faster than I thought!). But we have tried to stay positive together so we all can manage this.

"It’s a big change for anyone who knows me! I might only have one and a half legs, but I am still the same person, 100 per-cent Carro. Some things might take more time since it is the first time I am doing it and I have to figure out my way, but there is nothing that I cannot do!”

It's sad that golf was rejected as one of the sports originally nominated for the Paralympics in Rio 2016 - I have no doubt Caroline would have been a contender for gold.

However, remember the name Caroline Larsson - one of the bravest sports people I've met in my 40 years in journalism. She's a credit to her profession and her country.