Swinging to Success

9 years 7 months 2 days ago February 25, 2007 Feb 25, 2007 Sunday, February 25 2007 Sunday, February 25, 2007 10:07:07 PM CST in Sports

You've heard athletes talking about digging deep to find their motivation. To a Columbia athlete dig means much more. Determination, imagination, and grit. This is the recipe John Covington uses to find success on his life's course.

John Covington is back at Rock Bridge Elementary which is where he used to go to school. He learned a lot of lessons and taught a few of his own.

"He would always correct me and say 'I don't want extra turns. I want to be like everybody else. I want to do it just like they do, so don't treat me special'," said Covington's former P.E. teacher Cara Ross.

"You can't have any pity for yourself and if I would have tried to get second chances I would have looked at myself as a handicapped kid," said Columbia golfer John Covington.

Since the day he was born with a radial club left hand, a condition that left him with a short left arm, John hasn't let anything hold him back. Including a love for sports.

"I think from an early age he was determined to do more than people could tell him he could do," said Ross.

But you can't see all of his obstacles. An athlete like John has something special in his heart.

"He has a double outlet right ventricle. At that time, 24 years ago, no one around here could do surgery," said John's mother Becky Covington.

"Everyone's got a challenge. For some it might be reading. I think that's what I look at my heart as being," remarked John Covington.

So the Covington's went to the Mayo clinic. John had open heart surgeries when he was one and five.

"When I walked him to the operating room for his five year old open heart surgery. He hugged me and said,'Don't worry, Mom. I'll be okay'," remembered Becky Covington.

Okay enough to make the Rock Bridge high school baseball and golf teams. For the past 7 years he managed a golf course in Edwardsville, Illinois, and now he is taking his golf skills national. John starts playing on a tour in March.

"Can you believe it? He's good, too! Very good," said Becky Covington.

In John's golf game, he sees the short left arm as giving him an upper hand.

"Imagine having your left arm tied behind your back your whole life. Think of the muscles that would develop. This whole right side. It's big and it's strong, and it's always been able to compensate for the left," stated John Covington.

"You have to believe you can do something before your body will follow through," said John's mother.

Covington is now teaching others about believing in themselves and beating adversity. He's starting a foundation called DIG.

"I just thought D.I.G is great. Determination, imagination, grit. I mean what else do you need. You can do anything with those three," said Covington.

University Hospital is sponsoring Covington in his first Hooters tour event in mid-March. John is going to play in Orlando, Florida with his dad as the caddie. Last year Covington won the University Hospital's Hope and Spirit award for a patient who demonstrates perseverance and courage.

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