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Caroline Larsson pursues golfing ambitions on one leg

Young Swede Caroline Larsson is determined to pursue her golfing dreams despite losing her leg to cancer in May.

Caroline Larsson was caddying for her younger sister, Ladies European Tour rookie Louise Larsson, at the Pegasus Women’s New Zealand Women’s Open in February.

The 22-year-old Swede, who is two years older than Louise, turned professional in January and was planning to compete at Ladies European Tour Qualifying School herself for the 2012 season, but on 5th May, she lost her right leg.

After surgery to remove a cancerous tumour on 5th March, she returned for a check up and was told that amputation was the only option after doctors found five malignant tumours, called chondrosarcoma, in her thigh.

She first began to feel that her knee was swollen, but did not see doctors until a year later, when she had trouble bending her knee to read putts on the golf course. She had her first operation in June 2010 and the second in February this year. 

“After the amputation, I had a rough time. There are feelings that I cannot describe actually because it’s not like usual pain; it was like pain from the inside, right from where they took off my leg,” she says.  “The nerve was on my foot before, but I couldn’t feel my foot, so they call it phantom symptoms. I was like that for three days. It still hurts and I have to take medications until at least the end of July.”

‘Carro-spirit’

Caroline is a fighter. Just two weeks after surgery, she was out swinging at her home course in Karlstad, hitting balls whilst balancing on one leg as well as performing sit ups and push ups in the gym.

She said that she was happy to be alive after a near-death experience in New Zealand. Following the Ladies European Tour event in Christchurch, she and her sister Louise were sitting in a restaurant having lunch when the earthquake, which police believe killed 182 people, hit the city.

She said: “The floor was jumping, plates were jumping, windows were crashing and we came out. Buildings were coming down and we just survived. Out restaurant and four other buildings were the only buildings left standing on the street: the choice of restaurant saved our lives.

“After that I had a completely different view of life coming home because we could have been killed. One month later I had the decision that my leg had to be amputated. I was in shock because I felt so good and I had been through so much.”

When the day of the operation came she was not particularly worried and she had her boyfriend, Martin, with her to help her stay calm, “There was no looking back; I could only look forward,” she says.

A week after the operation she was swinging a club inside the hospital. Another week later and she was back on the course, with her sister there to help hold her hips, just in case she should fall. Now she is hitting by herself and is planning to compete in the Swedish top flight inter-club match ‘lag sm’ a week from now.

Her prosthetic leg does not feel right yet so she will play the county match with a cart and on one leg. 

She is practising and training every day with the goal foremost in her mind. “This is my new goal. Never before was I this strong. I was not like this before but now I’m deciding what I want to do and I’m more thankful.

“I can hit every shot nearly as good as before but the big difference is that my length is not so long any more. I think I lost a lot of strength with my leg but every shot is good right now so I’m happy.”

After the elite inter-club match, Caroline will play in the Swedish Invitational from August 12-13 alongside the world’s best players with disabilities, and she hopes that the one legged golf player Manuel de los Santos will be there, as he is an inspiration, as is Sarah Reinertsen, the first woman amputee to win an ironman triathlon, whose message is: ‘fear less, live more.’

Caroline was invited to hit balls on the driving range alongside Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson at a charity match at the PGA National Course in Malmo, Sweden on Monday 4th July and she said: ‘It was a lot of fun.’

Her message is ‘be positive and cheerful,’ and she hopes to inspire others along the way to achieving her own dreams, which are to play on the Swedish Handitour, then possibly the Swedish Tour and even the Ladies European Tour in future.

Her favourite golfers are Annika Sorenstam and Carin Koch, whom she would like to play with in a Pro Am.

To find out more about Caroline, you can read her blog at: http://www.carolinelarsson.eu/

Those who are inspired by Caroline’s story can see her at the Ladies Irish Open supported by Failte Ireland from August 5-7, where she will be supporting her sister Louise as she competes in the field.