Farley Hayes plans on coming back from the Canadian Transplant Games with four Yukon records under his belt.
And he’s not being cocky, either.
It’s just that he’s the first Yukoner to compete at the Games — it’s a clean slate.
“I’ve got a whole territory to carry on my shoulders,” said Hayes with a laugh.
The lifelong golfer is the only transplantee from Yukon competing at the Games, which run August 8 to 13 in Edmonton.
“I signed up for everything I could, at least one event every day,” said Hayes on Thursday morning, before heading out to play nine practice holes at Meadow Lakes.
“Swimming, badminton, bowling and dragon boat — and golf, of course.”
A few years ago, Hayes thought his golfing days were done.
After contracting hepatitis C, Hayes’ physical condition deteriorated quickly. By 2001, he could barely get off the couch, let alone shoot a round. His liver was shot, and he needed a new one right away.
Finding a match took time.
A few incompatible livers came and went, and Hayes’ condition worsened. “I was getting bad; I was waiting for the phone to ring, but getting sicker and sicker,” he said.
In 2004, Hayes’ brother decided to go under the knife, donating half his liver.
“August 16, 2004 — that’s my anniversary date,” said Hayes. “You sort of live by that, it’s the day you were reborn.”
Nearly two years into his recovery, Hayes is starting to build up is energy again.
He started hitting whiffleballs this winter at the Canada Games Centre, it was his first time swinging in five years.
And, when the golf season began, he ventured out.
“In the beginning, I’d walk two or three holes with a couple of clubs, just to get out there. I did a full-round earlier this year with a friend, but I had to ride along for the last nine — it’s pretty tough.”
His goal is to do a full 18-hole round on foot. In a way, he has to learn to use his body all over again.
“It’s still fun, but it’s tough … it’s a workout,” he said.
“It used to be a party — after work with your buddies and a beer — now I’m asking myself if I can make it to the next hole, or should I quit for today.”
Golf is good, said Hayes, because there’s no pressure, he plays at his own speed, and lets his technique swing the way it can, with little strain.
“You can’t force it, the head of the club does all the work,” he said, after landing a nice fairway drive onto the green on the third hole.
“I don’t have the swing I used to have. I’m actually hitting the ball better — not as far, but straighter, with more control.”
Hayes said he’s grateful to Jeff Luehmann, owner of Meadow Lakes, for letting him practice for the Games free of charge.
“We’re letting him get the kinks out of his game,” said Luehmann, with a laugh. He was out playing some early morning best-ball with his crew, when they crossed paths with Hayes.
Some good-natured ribbing ensued. “He needs the practice, really,” said Luehmann. “But it’s a great thing.”
If Hayes’ does well in Edmonton, he may qualify for the World Transplant Games, to be held next year in Bangkok, Thailand.
“I’m sure there will be some great golfers there; they’re going to kick my ass,” he said. “People with transplants have climbed Mount Everest.”
He isn’t worried about keeping up, “It’s not really about the competition; it’s about playing the game.”
Hayes says he hopes there will be a few more Yukoners to accompany him for the next Canada Transplant Games in 2008, but he advises them not to rush it.