When lifelong Stephenville resident Tyler Lane learned that he was going to get the chance to play a round on the high-profile Whistling Straits golf course in Wisconsin, his expectations were high. Prior to playing on the course, he had said it was like a dream come true.
After he returned home, the 20-year-old Tarleton State University student said his experience there on Saturday was beyond anything he had imagined.
"I thought it was amazing. I’m kind of at a loss for words. It blew my expectations out of the water. I was super blessed to be able to do that," said Lane, who was offered the all-expense-paid trip to the Sheboygan-area course on Lake Michigan through the Round of a Lifetime Foundation because of a rare heart defect that was dianosed when he was 14 years old.
Lane, a 2018 graduate of Stephenville High School, was active in basketball, football and baseball when he was younger. But those activities came to an end in 2014 when he was diagnosed by doctors at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth with a serious heart condition called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.
He felt a little lost without being able to play his other sports, but gave golf a try and soon learned to love it.
"After that (the diagnosis), I couldn’t do some of the things I used to do. Golf was huge to me," said Lane, who has a 2-year-old daughter named Paisley with his wife, SHS graduate Allissa Lane. "All of my friends, I had met through sports. I was by myself then (without the other sports). Some of my friends then played golf with me, and my family."
Round of a Lifetime
Lane got the chance to play on the gorgeous Whistling Straits course courtesy of the Round of a Lifetime Foundation, a charity established in 2010 that makes it possible for golfers with congenital heart disease to play on a world-class golf course.
Dan Igo, director of content for Round of a Lifetime, stated in an email that the charity had previously sent nine golfers to courses around the world, including Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, TPC Sawgrass and Camoustie Golf Links in Scotland.
"I was super excited," Lane told the Empire-Tribuned prior to leaving for Wisconsin. "I thought it was the best thing ever."
Whistling Straits is scheduled to be the site for the 43rd Ryder Cup event, in late September of this year.
Lane made the trip with his father, Steve Lane, and uncle, Jamie McDougal. They flew out of Dallas to Milwaukee on Friday, played 18 holes on Saturday, and returned home Sunday.
Since the course is always busy, a fourth player — a man they didn’t previously know, from Chicago — was added to their playing party.
"I’ve seen (Whistling Straits) on TV. It’s one of the few courses a lot of (pro golfers) actually struggle on," said Lane, whose mother is Melanie Lane, and who has one sister, Jaci Lane. "I wanted to get a feel for how difficult it was."
Although it was a little windy, they had great playing weather and Lane played well through the first nine holes.
"I did play pretty well. I was only three over (par) through nine holes," Lane said. "But it got worse because I was getting tired."
’Like walking on a cloud’
Whistling Straits is a lengthy walking-only course, with no golf carts allowed.
"It was amazing. The fairways were almost like a sponge," Lane said. "It was like walking on a cloud. The greens were spectacular. The hardest part was the greens. They were super fast."
Lane noted that one of his favorite golfers, Tiger Woods, had said after playing there in the 2014 PGA Championships that Whistling Straits — often featuring high winds blowing in off of Lake Michigan — was the hardest course he ever played.
"It (the difficulty) makes you appreciate the guys on TV even more because they make it look like a piece of cake," Lane said.
Some of the holes are only about 10 feet away from the edge of the huge lake, Lane said.
"If somebody dropped you off there, you would think it was the ocean," he said.
Lane also got to take a tour of the Champions Locker Room at Whistling Straits.
"I saw Tiger’s locker. For me, that was huge — to say that I have touched his locker," said Lane, who is entering his junior year at Tarleton, where he is majoring in environmental engineering and minoring in math.