Girl with heart defect readies for debut LPGA event

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CHARLESTON, S.C. - MacKinzie Kline was never one to wait for her chance, no matter how many surgeons or specialists told her to slow down.

MacKinzie Kline, a 15-year-old with a heart defect that prevents her from walking long distances, will be playing her first LPGA event near Charleston.  Associated Press
Associated Press
MacKinzie Kline, a 15-year-old with a heart defect that prevents her from walking long distances, will be playing her first LPGA event near Charleston.

Kline's drive will be rewarded this week.

The 15-year-old junior golfer who was born with a congenital heart defect will play in her first LPGA Tour event, the $2.6 million Ginn Tribute near Charleston.

"I'm always someone who tries to bend the rules a little bit," she said recently by phone.

Because of her medical condition, Kline can't walk long distances without becoming fatigued. The LPGA issued a landmark ruling allowing Kline to become the first player in the organization's history to ride a cart during her rounds.

Kline, the oldest child of Elizabeth and John Kline, was born with heterotaxy syndrome, meaning her heart has one ventricle instead of two. In addition, her liver was transverse and she did not have a spleen.

"She was born with a heart defect that 30 years ago, we didn't have good treatment for," said Dr. John Lamberti, her heart surgeon at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.

Kline had two heart surgeries before she was 2, and doctors weren't sure about her life expectancy.

Her mother remembers when things began to turn. Her 4-year-old daughter had been through another checkup when a doctor said with a grin, "I'd never thought she'd do this well."

Now, Kline, of Encinitas, Calif., has her latest chance to beat the odds on the Arnold Palmer-designed RiverTowne Country Club Course at the Belvidere Resort.

Kline got the chance to play when she received an exemption from tournament host Annika Sorenstam, who is thrilled the teenager is taking part.

"What she has accomplished, not only in golf, but for the community, is extraordinary," Sorenstam has said.

Kline has become a spokeswoman for The Children's Heart Foundation and is trying to raise $1 million for the organization.

She aspires to join the LPGA one day and compete with young stars she'll see this week like Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel.

The LPGA will allow Kline to use a cart and an oxygen delivery system - it looks like a cooler, her mother says - when she needs it.

LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens determined that Kline's request would not give her an unfair competitive advantage.

The USGA later ruled that Kline could use a cart for the U.S. Women's Amateur. She did not get past medal play but followed an opening 83 with a second-day 75.

Kline plans to soak up everything this week. She says she'll treat it like any of her junior events, but her parents know better

"She's nervous," her mother says. "I tell her, 'Mac, you're not going to let anyone down. Have fun.'"


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