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Teenage Patients Get Unexpected Visit from Zach Johnson at Shriners Children’s Open

Brian Forbes

Zach Johnson is a man of many surprises.

He famously went from being the No. 3 golfer at unheralded Drake University to a 12-time PGA TOUR winner, 2007 Masters and 2015 Open champion, numerous Ryder and President’s cups appearances, and the prestigious Payne Stewart Award in 2020 as a recognition of his character, charity, and sportsmanship. The Zach Johnson Foundation, through education and support, has positively impacted hundreds of schoolchildren in his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Zach had a few more surprises for some deserving kids at this year’s PGA TOUR Shriners Children’s Open.

Zach stunned Shriners Children’s patients Seth and Connor by joining them on the driving range at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. Seth and Connor were attending the tournament as National Patient Ambassadors — Shriners Children’s patients who are chosen annually to share their medical journeys and the ways the health care system has made a difference in their lives.

Zach presented the teens with his TOUR replica hat, Oakley sunglasses and custom PXG putters, and they played the first hole together to cap off a well-orchestrated and memorable afternoon.

It all took place two days before the opening round of the Shriners Children’s Open, in what is essentially a practice day for the TOUR pros. For Zach, Seth and Connor, there was plenty of fun banter, photos with family, and a slew of questions about the finer points of great golf shots.

“I appreciate you guys,” said Zach, who was days removed from serving as vice-captain for Team USA in its historic rout of Europe in the Ryder Cup. “You represent a population that certainly needs some representation.”

Transamerica has sponsored Zach and supported his foundation throughout his professional career. Shriners has trusted its comprehensive retirement plan services to Transamerica for many years. Shriners Hospitals for Children is a unique health care system with locations across the United States, as well as in Mexico and Canada, that provide specialized care for orthopedic conditions, burns, cleft lip and palate, and spinal cord injury rehabilitation for kids under 18.

As National Patient Ambassadors, Seth and Connor represent Shriners Children’s at local and national events, sharing their stories of treatment and perseverance.

Seth was diagnosed at 11 with a curvature in his spine, which quickly progressed to a severe degree. Years of scoliosis treatment have allowed Seth, now 17, to play many sports, including competitive golf.

Connor was born with a bilateral incomplete cleft lip and complete cleft palate, which left him unable to properly eat. He’s undergone 13 surgeries to date, with more on the horizon.

Seth and Connor are both talented young golfers who looked right at home mashing drives alongside TOUR professionals.


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