Boise golfer experiences success after being injured in Afghanistan

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dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comSeptember 22, 2013 

Charlie Linville, shown golfing on his prosthetic right leg this year in Vail, Colo., will tee off at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club on Sunday for the Simpson Cup. All of the competitors are members of the On Course Foundation, a charity organization on both sides of the Atlantic. The week’s profits, after operating costs, will benefit the two foundations.

COURTESY OF MANDI LINVILLE

Golf can often be a frustrating exercise.

But for Charlie Linville, it has been a source of great therapy.

Linville, a 28-year-old Boise resident and Marine staff sergeant, lost his right leg below the knee and two fingers off his right hand when he stepped on a bomb in 2011 while serving in Afghanistan.

From Sunday through Wednesday, he will be one of 12 Americans competing in the Simpson Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event featuring injured servicemen against a British team at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in northwestern England.

“It’s a big recovery tool for me,” Linville said. “It’s uneven terrain, there are sand traps, so when I got my prosthetic, it tested me physically. And mentally, it takes your mind off whatever negative thoughts you have that day.”

The date is hard to forget — Jan. 20, 2011. Linville was part of the Marines’ bomb disposal unit, and he was sent on an afternoon call to an area where a device had injured other soldiers. One was missed, and the force of the explosion sent Linville into the air.

Regaining consciousness after a minute or two, he knew something was wrong, but his foot was still there, badly damaged. Linville was flown to the United States, and after about 20 surgeries to save his leg, the decision was made last June to amputate it.

“You can’t be a bomb disposal technician and just hope nothing ever happens. You hope when it does, it isn’t catastrophic,” said Linville, who is married with two daughters, ages 3 and 6. “It didn’t fully detonate, and I wouldn’t be alive if it did. It could have been much worse. The way I see it, I hit the lottery. I got a second chance, and I have to make the most of it.”

That is certainly what Linville has done — after his time in England, he will begin training to climb Puncak Jaya, the highest peak in Indonesia, at 16,024 feet.

But first, he must take on another daunting challenge in the course that has hosted 11 British Opens.

“I’ve kind of got to pinch myself that I’m playing there,” Linville said. “I never thought I’d have the chance to even be there.”

Even if he didn’t ever foresee visiting the course, playing on it was even more of a long shot.

Linville, a 2004 Boise High graduate, golfed a bit growing up, but mainly played soccer through high school, and started running seriously when he joined the Marines. His injury “totally altered” his ability to enjoy those activities, he said, but golf was a common activity for fellow soldiers while he was recouping in San Diego. He’s quickly excelled — Linville’s handicap is about a 10.

“It’s fun playing in pants because you’ll go with some guys you don’t know and after a few holes, I’ll need to adjust it and they’ll have to do a double take,” he said.

At the end of the month, Linville will officially be retired from the Marine Corps. He has become a better skier in addition to his golf skills and his burgeoning climbing hobby. As much sense of accomplishment as that brings him, Linville has a wider perspective on what events like the Simpson Cup mean.

“It’s not just for my sense of well-being, but hopefully people out there and especially other wounded guys can see that it’s not over, not even close,” Linville said.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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