The One-Armed Bandit

By | November 9, 2020

OCALA, Fla. — Golf is hard enough when you can use both of your arms.

When you can only use one, the degree of difficulty is even higher.

Courtesy: Chris Kemp
Courtesy: Chris Kemp

But Chris Kemp doesn’t like to dwell on the challenges his injury presents to him.

“I should have died. I had a .01 percent chance of survival after one minute of the accident because of some of the injuries I sustained,” Kemp said. “And I just felt happy to be alive.”

Kemp is a 29-year-old Marion County Sheriff’s Office emergency management logistics planner. On Jan. 10, 2012, he was in a motorcycle accident in Ocala. As a result, he was left with something called a brachial plexus injury. The nerve clusters were torn out of his left arm, which left the arm paralyzed.

For an avid athlete, not having one of your arms can be devastating. Even his doctors told him his athletic life was probably over.

Courtesy: Chris Kemp
Courtesy: Chris Kemp

“They told me right after my accident that I would never play golf again,” Kemp said. “Golf was one of my big things that after my injury, I told myself that was going to be a benchmark that I was going to reach.”

He’s been competing around the country through an organization called the North American One-Armed Golfers Association (NAOAGA). But the reason he’s able to play at all is because of a special sling he saw on a message board called the United Brachial Plexus Network (UBPN).

Without the sling, his arm is too floppy to be able to play. In fact, it’s actually dangerous because the arm can come out of its socket after a fast movement.

The sling was designed by a man named Dan Aldrich. Aldrich, a financial adviser in California, suffered his own brachial plexus injury in 1986 when he was 22 years old. After meeting Kemp through the UBPN and learning his story, he knew the Ocala golfer needed the sling.

They told me right after my accident that I would never golf again.

“He’s just one of those guys, it’s built for a guy like him,” Aldrich said. “Our tagline is never quit, and that’s absolutely Chris’s life to a tee.”

WUFT Reporter Chris O'Brien (left) joined Kemp (center), Nick Stilwell (middle right) and a friend for a round of golf.
WUFT Reporter Chris O’Brien (left) joined Kemp (center), Nick Stilwell (middle right) and a friend for a round of golf.

With his game and spirit renewed, Kemp now calls himself the “One-Armed Bandit.”

One day, he wants to begin motivational speaking. For now, he continues his golf game, while also scuba diving and playing softball.