Eventual winner Austin Sipe tees off at the Ohio Amateur at the Springfield Country Club earlier this month. BILL LACKEY / STAFF

Sipe won Ohio Am while dealing with Type 1 diabetes

Austin Sipe was 8 years old when his mother, knowing something wasn’t right with him, took him to the school psychologist. The psychologist advised Janice Sipe to have him checked for diabetes.

A physician discovered that his blood glucose level was above 600. Ever since the 23-year-old who won the Ohio Amateur golf championship earlier this month has had to deal with being a Type 1 diabetic.

RELATED: Centerville grad wins Ohio Amateur

That is partially why the scene at Springfield Country Club was so emotional when Sipe walked forward to receive his Ohio Am trophy.

His father, Moraine Country Club golf professional Brent Sipe, had shared a long, teary embrace with Austin as he walked off the 18th green.

Jim Popa of Columbus, who runs the Ohio Golf Association, is seldom emotional when he makes a few remarks before presenting the Ohio Am winner, but this time was different. He knows the Sipe family well and had difficulty getting the words out as he introduced Austin as the 2017 champion.

For Austin the victory was a culmination of a long, difficult golfing experience during which he always has had to deal with the consequences of fluctuating glucose levels.

He wears an insulin pump and has a blood glucose sensor taped on his body so he can tell when it’s necessary to eat something or add insulin. Even that is not fool-proof.

Last year while attempting to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship, he was cruising along at 3-under-par after 18 of 36 holes and in a good position to qualify. Unfortunately, he had been sweating profusely and the sensor fell off on the sixth hole of the first round.

The plan was to correct the situation before the second round, but officials reduced the time between rounds from the expected 30 minutes to 15. There was no time to re-tape the glucose apparatus. Sipe could do nothing more than get something to eat and resume play.

Sipe made birdies at the fourth and fifth holes to go 5-under-par and then crashed. “I started to feel a little lethargic,” he said. Over the next nine holes he made seven bogeys. He made a triple bogey at the 15th hole and finished way out of contention at 5 over. That’s what an improper level of glucose can do to a person.

“I have a basically invisible disease,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on. It kind of bit me in the butt.”

In spite of his daily inconvenience, Austin has forged on. He helped the Centerville High School golf team advance to the state tournament four years in a row and he had four good, if not spectacular, years on the Wright State University golf team.

Sipe’s game has come a long way from what it was when he played in a U.S. Open qualifier after his junior year in high school just to see how good he was.

“I shot 92,” he said. “I told my dad when he came home from work. I cried and he cried. I felt completely lost.”

That’s when his golf instructor, Kevin Jones, suggested that he see Dr. Todd Kays at the Athletic Mind Institute in Dublin. He is still seeing Dr. Kays.

“I’ve learned to just let it happen,” he said. “It’s definitely more relaxing if you learn to stay out of your own way.”

When Sipe tied for fourth in the Ohio Am at Findlay Country Club last year, there was evidence that his game had some promise. And the week before this year’s Ohio Am he beat the Southern Ohio pros in an open tournament at Springfield CC.

When Sipe got back to Moraine Country Club with the Ohio Am trophy on July 14, he was greeted by a lot of members who had been there for a Nine & Dine outing. “They’re my second family,” he said.

Oh yes, and there was the letter he received. The one with the Florida postmark that he didn’t open right away because he thought it pertained to a wedding of a buddy.

Turned out it was a letter of congratulations from a well-known Floridian and Ohio native named Jack Nicklaus.

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