A high school golf team conceded a championship victory Thursday, leaving a team with an ineligible player, who had missed a year due to cancer treatment, take the top prize.
Zach Hart, 19, was ineligible to compete with the Waterloo Oxford District High School golf team in the WCSSAA Championship on Thursday due to his age.
But the team allowed him to participate, competing as a substitute, for the year he lost while being treated for a brain tumor and another year lost due to the pandemic.
The Waterloo Oxford team won, but were told that they could not submit Hart’s score and could only use the scores of the other three players as the total.
“I was an eligible golfer, but they said if we took my score, they would have disqualified us,” Zach said.
Zach Hart. (Courtesy of Jessica Henderson)
Due to Hart’s ineligibility, Bluevale Collegiate Institute won in his place.
That is, until the Bluevale players made a surprising decision.
“I forgot which one, but one of them was quick to say, ‘This doesn’t feel right. Can we just lose or let them win somehow? ‘”Said Jason Forget, Bluevale Collegiate Institute golf coach.
In an act of true sportsmanship, each member of the Bluevale team was disqualified from the event, allowing Waterloo Oxford to win.
Forget has been a high school sports coach for 16 years and says he has never seen anything like it.
“That is what makes me most proud and is the most beautiful thing I have witnessed,” said Forget.
“It was really shocking, actually. I met one of the kids on his team, because we had played golf together before, ”Hart said.
The Waterloo Oxford golf team. (CTV Kitchener)
Hart was one of Canada’s top junior golfers in 2018, winning the Maple Leaf Junior Tour (MJT) National Championship. Then he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2019.
“Where the brain tumor was, it was pressing on his brainstem and it was pressing on the occipital nerve. So he was losing all motor skills, ”said his father, Chris Hart.
After three brain surgeries and chemotherapy, Zach Hart has finished his treatment and regularly undergoes MRIs.
“I was swinging a club 20 days after my first cycle of chemotherapy,” Hart said.
In 2020, Hart returned to school and graduated, but was unable to compete in any sports due to the pandemic. So he came back for 2021 to play again.
“So he lost, he lost, he lost. So I was very proud of him, that he said, ‘Hey dad, I’m going back to school, I’m going to get a couple of credits, I’m going to play on the golf team, I’m going to have a little fun,’ ”Chris said.
Since his treatment, Hart has worked with Canadian Blood Services, Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario, The Ontario Hockey League, Bruce Power, BarDown.com, and the SickKids Foundation.
More recently, she began working with other young elite athletes who were going through similar journeys to her own, including a tennis athlete with leukemia.
“It was one of the hardest things because I finally got to see what my parents saw,” Hart said. “In the spring, I would love to have a tennis match against her.”
Hart plans to keep swinging a club for as long as he can, hoping to build a professional career working in golf.