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By David Sharp
Junior golfer Kyle Benson placed 14th in Highland’s Class 2 District Golf Meet at Hannibal during the recently completed Spring 2021 season. Benson qualified as an individual for the Class 2 MSHSAA Golf Championships, held at the Silo Ridge County Club at Bolivar, Missouri.
The Cougar’s lone representative at this season’s state golf meet turned in a first round total of 102 and carded a 95 during day two. Kyle Benson placed 54th overall in Class 2 with a score of 197.
Qualifying for state level competition in any sport is an outstanding accomplishment. The path Benson took to get to Springfield, or on the Golf Course and the Basketball Court is an even greater feat.
During November of 2016 the then Highland seventh grader was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma. This is a Cancer effecting muscle tissue or the bone structure.
Kyle Benson also suffered from a curved spinal column. He received Chemotherapy, Radiation treatments and had two ribs removed as part of Cancer treatment at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. His spinal column was surgically corrected.
According to the American Cancer Society, Ewing Sarcoma has a 70% cure rate for localized Cancers.
One of the many sayings Cancer patients and Survivors live by is “Nobody Fights Alone.”
Kyle Benson’s parents are Kevin and Sheila Benson of Monticello, Mo. “I would say it was due to Kyle’s attitude,” Sheila Benson said of how her family got through that difficult time of some five years ago.
“You never really heard him complain or anything. He handled it really well. He was definitely very upset when he was first diagnosed. He has always handled it very well,” Sheila Benson said. “Honestly it’s Kyle’s attitude that has gotten us through it.”
The Canton school district and Highland held a fund raising and recognition event for Kyle Benson at Canton during a night of basketball between the Tigers and Cougars. Players and coaches from both teams posed for a group picture during the Benson family’s battle.
“When he was first diagnosed, we didn’t know how it was going to turn out,” Sheila Benson said. “I remember the phone call we had. He went to the hospital because of his appendix. They saw some spots.”
“We went to our primary Doctor. He was the one that called and said we need to get to Children’s (Hospital in St. Louis),” Sheila Benson said. “They did a bunch of tests. They called about two weeks later and said he had Cancer and we needed to get back to the hospital.”
“It was all the people I know, and a bunch of people I don’t know just coming together to support me out of the community,” Kyle Benson said. “They put the differences aside between Highland and Canton, just coming together for me.”
Participants were shown from one sideline across the court to the other. Highland girls basketball star Kaitlin Benson held her younger brother in the center of the group. Kaitlin currently plays basketball for Columbia College.
“After they removed (two) ribs I started going to physical therapy for about four months,” Kyle said of the process that allowed him to regain strength and balance needed to resume his athletic pursuits.
“After that is was just playing the sports,” Kyle Benson said. “It was lifting weights. We started the (2020 golf) season but we weren’t able to finish it. I had to change my swing a little bit,” Benson said of some of the ways he was able to recover enough to play golf.
“I also tried to gain a little flexibility in my body,” Kyle Benson said. “Just to be able to move it in the way it wouldn’t affect my missing ribs any.”
“We had a shaky start to the season,” Kyle Benson said about the Cougar 2021 Spring boys golf campaign. “As the season grew, we all started playing a little better. The Conference came around. We just started playing better and better.”
Drew Mallett, Robert Goehl, Braedyn Hetzler, Austin Carter, Dakota Stegeman, Trevor Logsdon and Kyle Benson were members of the 2021 Highland boy’s golf team.
Highland finished fourth at the Clarence Cannon Conference boys golf meet. The 2020 MSHSAA boys golf season wound up being canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We didn’t have a clue,” Sheila Benson said. “I knew people that had Cancer, but nobody close in our family. We have had great support. People always prayed for him and still pray for him.”
The Cougars played their District golf meet at the Norwood Country Club at Hannibal. Kyle Benson scored a 95, placing 14th. Benson qualified for the State Golf Meet.
“It was pouring down rain for the first nine holes or so,” Kyle Benson said of the state meet’s first round. “You couldn’t get any roll out of the ball. It was tough to play. Every time you would take a shot you would take a divot.”
“The second day was a lot better condition wise,” Benson said. “The course started drying up as the day went on. The greens started getting faster.”
“My goal was to stay under 200,” Kyle Benson said of the combined two day stroke total. “That made me feel good about what I have been working towards. It felt good.”
Kyle Benson will carry the distinction of his state golf finish when he comes back to Highland in the fall of 2021 for his Senior year. “it’s a good feeling because once I was diagnosed with Cancer, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything,”
“It feels good to be at the point where I am at,” Kyle Benson said. Going into my Senior Year I still get to do the sports that I love.”