By Matt Jenkins
---- — SALEM — The scores have gone down, but the attitude remains steady.
Four years after picking up golf on a whim and joining the Salem High team as a freshman, senior Will Parr has climbed the ranks for the Witches, advancing from an inexperienced JV player all the way to No. 3 on Salem’s varsity ladder.
Shaving 10, 15, maybe even 20 strokes off a scorecard over the course of 3-4 years isn’t unusual for your typical young golfer.
Parr is not your typical golfer, however.
Born with a rare disease called progressive neurofibromatosis, which causes tumors to grow throughout the body, Parr has had multiple surgeries to have his right leg amputated just above the knee.
He has never let the disease slow him down, and is admired by his teammates and classmates.
“Every day he has amazed me and impressed me, both as a person and a golfer,” Salem golf coach Tom Doyle said. “We’re very lucky to have him in the program.”
Parr was once a player who provided inspiration to his teammates, but has become much more than that. Although Salem has struggled to a 2-6 start this season, Parr has developed into one of the team’s most consistent players, and his time spent in the Witches’ program makes him one of the most experienced.
Still, Parr downplays his importance to the team.
“Well, I haven’t improved that much,” Parr said. “I went from maybe shooting high 50s, maybe mid-50s on a good day to shooting mid-to-high 40s. If I’m really having a bad day, I can still go a little over 50.”
Doyle sees Parr’s improvement much differently.
“He’s improved his game probably 15-20 strokes,” Doyle said. “It went from being a fun thing as a freshman; he was learning the game and learning just to play all the different shots. Each year he’s been drastically better. The first two years he was a JV player, then last year he stepped up and made varsity. This year he’s flirting with the No. 2 spot.”
Adapting his game
Parr thoroughly enjoys being part of the team and plays the game as much as he can in the offseason. Getting hooked on golf and playing more rounds has naturally helped Parr improve.
“He’s now keeping the ball in play more. His whole game has improved; he’s hitting the ball longer (and) he has a very strong upper body,” Doyle said. “He’s definitely improved his strength and distance ... he’s improved in all facets of the game.”
Parr’s understanding of the game and his swing have changed over the years, but his physical approach remains the same.
He has slowly started adapting to a prosthetic leg over the last few years, but he hasn’t completely incorporated it into his golf game. For matches, Parr takes a cart around the course and uses his crutches to get over his ball. Once he’s settled, he drops his crutches and swings away.
When he reaches the green — and for some short chips — Parr uses his crutches for balance.
“My aiming technique has changed a lot and my club choice has changed, too. I’m still working on chipping and putting,” Parr said. “Freshman year I was swinging with all I could; now I’m more reserved.
“I don’t hit it too far; I try to keep it more in play.”
‘A great experience’
Parr’s approach on the golf course may be a little more reserved, but he still attacks all other parts of his life with all-out intensity. He has held his job at the Salem Witch Museum for three years, is the Salem High senior class president and is now knee-deep in the college search.
Parr is keeping his options open at this point, and with a GPA just below 4.0 (on a 5.0 scale) he’s thinking about studying economics, political science, or maybe pre-med.
He knows his time playing competitive golf is most likely coming to a close in the next month or so, but he has enjoyed every moment.
“I got to play golf all the time and that’s great. You get to know the guys on the course. I love during practice playing with the guys and girls on the team. All the other players are awesome,” Parr said.
“I’m really glad I have played for this team. Coach Doyle is awesome. It’s been a great experience all four years.”