Pack Heroes: Brandon Canesi
Founder of Hole High, USAGA International Champion. Hero.
"I was born without hands. My mother took a pregnancy test at the doctor’s office and they read her someone else’s negative results. Then the doctors prescribed her medication to bring on help bring her period. Turns out she was pregnant, with twins, and the medication killed my twin and caused “limb reduction” to my hands. When I was born my parents were in shock because no one had mentioned the possible side effects. When they saw my hands they were so scared that I wouldn’t be able to live a normal life. One of the first things my dad said shortly after I was born was “it’s a shame he won’t be able to golf.”
I knew and could tell I was born different but that never stopped me from doing all the things a kid wants to do. Sports, video games, anything and everything I set my mind on I went after it. There were many times especially early in my life where people doubted my abilities and they were nervous for me or insisted on helping me, but anytime that happened I made sure to find a way to do it on my own.
Growing up I played basketball, football, and baseball. I skateboarded, surfed, snowboarded, and for a brief moment I would play golf when I would visit my grandpa down in Florida during the summers. It was his club that I naturally first grabbed and I was so small compared to the size of the club that I anchored it under my arm in order to stabilize it. It worked pretty well but I was about 6-7 years old so i just enjoyed driving the cart and trying to hit the ball as far as my big brother.
I quickly grew out of the ability to anchor the club under my arm so I stopped playing golf until I was 17 and decided I wanted to play again. My uncle, an avid golfer, was on a mission to help me get out on the course with the rest of my family. We came up with the idea to extend the clubs, giving me the ability to swing just like I did when I was 6 years old.
I immediately fell in love with the game. And given my personality of needing to prove to myself that I can do anything, I made it my goal to become as good as I can be. I played a lot of golf on the weekends and after work sometimes during the week. I went through all the stages of buying the cheapest balls and playing the cheapest courses I could find, but it didn’t matter to me. I was in love with the game and playing it with my friends and family made it that much better.
As I continued to play, I felt that my equipment was holding me back. So we went back to the drawing board and created a new set of clubs using lighter yet stiffer shafts so that I could swing faster. I quickly saw results.
My clubs would turn heads as I started playing more courses. They were so long, they clearly stuck out of my bag. I would have a lot of pressure on me anytime I teed it up because I had an audience. Turns out I thrive under that pressure. Most people see my clubs and my hands and they would say it’s nice that I’m able to be out there but then I would step onto the tee box and strike one down the middle and they would be blown away and say things like “I don’t wanna play against you.”
I was now in a time in my life where I needed to figure out my career path. What in the world do I want to do with my life? I had no idea. I just liked to play golf and I felt this weird sensation that I was born to play golf because I felt so at home whenever I was on the golf course.
Then Hole High was born. I started it as a registered foundation in order to make a name for myself and to help inspire others to overcome their limitations. With the start of Hole High I created social media platforms to get my message out to the world. I would take random videos of myself whenever I would golf to truly show the world that you can do anything you set your mind on. As I started sharing my life, I found out that people really liked to watch me do the thing that I love most. So I kept doing it more and more. Now I really knew that I was born to golf.
I hosted a golf tournament for my friends and family and raised money for Shriners Children’s Hospitals. After the tournament I enrolled myself in The Golf Academy of America. I saw the commercials on the Golf Channel and I figured that if I couldn’t make connections there to get my foot in the door of the golf world, then it wouldn’t happen.
While at the academy, I was studying for a degree in golf operations and management. I was learning all the fundamentals of golf and working endlessly on my game. Playing a lot of golf and posting videos to keep spreading my message. I started January 1st 2018, and 2 months into the program I captured a hole-in-one video that went viral and quickly got Hole High’s message to the world. I was instantly contacted by all sorts of amazing brands and companies that wanted to help me spread my message to the world.
I was on Morning Drive, The Golf Advisor, I played golf with Paige Spiranac to help promote Myrtle Beach Golf, I did interviews with Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and was a guest on Hank Haney Radio. I featured #2 on ESPN top 10. I couldn’t believe that my message was finally getting out to the world, and I was walking on cloud nine.
Growing up without hands wasn’t easy, although if you knew me growing up I made it look easy. All these things happening to me justified that I was born this way for a reason. And that I was in fact blessed with the ability to potentially help others who need inspiration to overcome life’s limitations.
I was contacted by some organizations that hosted adaptive golfer tournaments, a world I didn’t know existed. I always wanted to compete but never knew there were such tournaments. I attended my first one in Orlando and met so many amazing disabled golfers who all found a way to play regardless of what challenges they had. I was also recruited to be on team USA for an Adaptive Golfer Ryder Cup.
Unfortunately we lost, but I was introduced to some amazing people who run an organization that hosts the tournaments and I became an ambassador for them as well. With them, I attended the Shriners Open in Las Vegas at TPC Summerlin, I hit balls with the pros on the range of the event and we hosted a clinic for 20-25 Shriners ambassadors, kids with different disabilities and backgrounds and we put clubs in their hands for the first time in their lives. I showed them that it was possible.
It was on this day where I truly figured out who I was born to be. The look on those kids faces when they hit their first good shot was so heartwarming. They would come up to me after asking for a picture and autograph and say things like “I can’t wait to go home and practice so I can be like you”. It was truly a day for me that I will never forget. My heart was so full.
Unfortunately, after I returned back to school it was shut down before I got a chance to graduate. I fell one semester shy of my degree. The academy existed for 20+ years and lost its accreditation/funding just before I could get my degree.
I had made a name for myself in the golf industry and learned so much during my time in school that I was immediately able to secure a job as an assistant golf pro at Trump National Doral, in Miami, where I could play year round, practicing and shooting videos to keep chasing my dreams. I was able to practice and play at a high quality golf resort. I would check in golfers then go out to the course and work on my game in preparation for any tournaments or events that might come my way.
A year had gone by so quickly and it was back to Vegas for the Shriners Open and also to compete in a tournament myself just after the Shriners.
After another incredible experience spreading the love for the game and making connections with PGA pros it was time for me to put all of my hard work to the test at the US Adaptive Golf Alliance (USAGA) International Championship. It was a 3 round tournament. On Day 1, I got my third ever hole in one, with my mom as my caddy, and I went on to win my first tournament. I shot 76, 78, 75 and played some of my personal best golf ever.
Throughout my life I have worked my way down to a 5.6 handicap. I’ve been through ups and downs, highs and lows. I’ve learned all that the game of golf has to offer. And how there are so many correlations to life.
Golf teaches you to be patient, humble, honest, and confident. It builds sportsmanship, honestly, and integrity. It can chew you up and spit you out or it can all go as planned and seem simple as can be. All I know is my journey is still just beginning. I love everything there is to love or hate about the game of golf but I will never stop the battle of me vs me, because that’s exactly what golf is."