Dilan Johnston to be among players in amputee golf tournament

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Dilan Johnston is pictured last year at May High School.

EARLY — In a November 2019 interview, Dilan Johnston — then a 17-year-old May High School senior — recalled a quote he’d heard: “this is a minor setback for a major comeback.”

Johnston said that quote describes his determination after losing his left leg above the knee in an Aug. 26, 2019 one-vehicle rollover accident.

Now walking with a prosthesis, Johnston, who is a Tarleton State University freshman, is preparing to play in the Southwest Amputee Golf Association Tournament (SWAGA) Sept. 26-27 at The Hideout Golf Club and Resort. This will be the fifth year The Hideout has hosted the tournament.

Founded in 1987, Southwest Amputee Golf Association is a non-profit charitable association founded to help amputees get out and discover there is life after a traumatic injury, the association’s website states.

Participating golfers range in skill from people who shoot 18-hole scores in the 70s to others shooting around 120, and ranging in age from teenagers to players in their 80s.

Johnston, who will be joined by his father, Jason, in the SWAGA tournament, said he’s excited to be playing. “I thought it was pretty cool what they’re doing,” Johnston said in a joint phone interview with the Bulletin and KOXE Radio. “For me to be to be able to participate in it just made my day.”

Johnston, who plans to go into coaching, said he played golf with his father before that accident that took his left leg, and he’s played since the accident.

“I’ve been hitting better with the prosthetic,” Johnston said. “Before, my left leg would always slip but with the prosthetic it just stays in one spot, so I don’t have to worry about my left foot turning or anything while I’m swinging. I’m more consistent.”

Johnston said he thinks he’ll do “pretty well” in the SWAGA tournament.

At the Early Visitors and Event center recently, two representatives of SWAGA — Jerry Drummond, president of the association and Randy Pegler, a board member and director of communications — met with the media and Early Tourism Director Denise Hudson.

Drummond, of Manor, said he lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident in Fredericksburg in 2003.

“it’s a fantastic course,” Drummond said of The Hideout. “Everybody up here — they’re so accommodating and they’re so happy to have you. It’s our favorite tournament and we keep coming back every year.”

Drummond said he understand’s Johnston’s comment about playing better with a prosthesis. “You can’t over-swing,” Drummond said, adding that he is eager to meet the Tarleton student.

“I’ve heard about him and we’ve talked about him all year,” Drummond said. “I’m just tickled pink that he’s going to be able to compete this year. That makes hims a success because a lot of people just sit down and quit. These guys will never sit down and quit.”

Drummond said he played golf before losing his leg. After the accident, Drummond said, he couldn’t start playing again until the advent of the electronic knee. “They have a computer in them and that’s what keeps me where I don’t fall down every time I swing,” Drummond said.

Pegler of Driftwood, is playing in the tournament as a non-amputee. “It’s my favorite tournament,” Pegler said. “The course is great, the people are great, town is great. It’s just great golf.”

Players like Johnston “put things in perspective,” Pegler said. “Things are tough now but nowhere near what Dilan and the rest of the amputees deal with on a daily basis and have for years.”

Hudson said the SWAGA tournament has a huge economic impact on the community.

“I tell people all the time, this is probably one of my favorite events that we do all year just because it’s refreshing,” Hudson said. “We complain a lot about life, and then when you spend a weekend out there with these guys and see what they do with without all of their limbs, it makes you wonder why I complain about anything.”

KOXE's Randy Turner speaks with Early Tourism Director Denise Hudson, Southwest Amputee Golf Association president Jerry Drummond and Randy Pegler, an association board member, at the Early Visitors and Event Center.