By Jeff Keeling
Noah Turner is sitting in the Blackthorn Club’s dining area when he calmly opens a small zippered case and removes a small plastic needle injector. The 12-year-old from Jonesborough with the spiked hair and grown-up demeanor jabs his finger, applies the resultant blood drop to a meter and pronounces his sugar level: “406.”
Just as calmly as before, Turner makes a few adjustments to his insulin pump and returns to his favorite subject: golf. Despite the challenges posed by severe Type I diabetes, Turner stays around the top five in his age group of the Carolinas division of U.S. Kids Golf. His play this year has qualified Turner for the prestigious PGA Golf Club Invitational in Port St. Lucie, Fla. this weekend.
If Turner runs into trouble with his blood sugar on the course, don’t expect him to fold his proverbial tent. Brian Turner says his son attacks the game with the swagger of his favorite golfer, style guru and, since a few years ago, personal friend, Brit Ian Poulter.
“We find in our family that European golfers have more love and enthusiasm for the game than I’ve ever seen,” Brian Turner says. “They think out of the box, and they try to win. They’re unorthodox in the game like Noah.”
That lack of orthodoxy and swagger on Poulter’s part fits well with Turner’s approach to life, a life that revolves around golf. Brian and Amy Turner home school Noah, and travel frequently to weekend tournaments around the Southeast. Turner was less than a year old when his parents learned some frightening news. Noah, the couple’s only child, had severe Type I diabetes. The Turners determined to encourage their only child to live a life without unnecessary limits. Though they are avid golfers, they didn’t push Noah toward the sport.
At around age 7, Noah took an interest, and showed an aptitude that has grown in the years since. He has an unorthodox swing that seems to work, and a killer instinct. “I’ve had one lesson in the last year,” Noah says. “Graham (Blackthorn pro Enloe) picked up on something in my wrists.”
While Noah’s previousendocrinologist cautioned that the walking and mental stress of golf could prove problematic, so far, it hasn’t. Noah checks his sugar every three holes (Brian is his caddy). “He finds anywhere he can, a tree stump, a curb – I’ve even seen him walk and check it,” Brian says.
When Noah Turner is walking and checking his glucose level, he’s doing it in a style that mimics brash Brit Ian Poulter – a one-time idol who’s become a friend.
The Turners were watching the 2012 Ryder Cup on television when it happened. “Ian Poulter for team Europe shoots a shot out of a bunker and chips it in,” Brian Turner says.
“No, he hit it off the bridge,” Noah replies. “He could’ve took his free drop but he didn’t like where he was gonna be.”
Poulter proceeded to hit the pin for a tap in putt, as Noah Turner remembers it. Regardless of the exact circumstances, the swashbuckler who many Americans love to hate was the key to Europe’s shocking comeback win in that year’s Cup, and watching it all had sewn the seeds of a mini-Poulter in Jonesborough.
Following the shot, Brian Turner remembers, “Noah looked at me and his mom and he goes, ‘that’s my guy. I can do that.’”
Sometime later, Amy Turner contacted the U.S. Kids Tour director in Florida, hoping somehow to get a signed copy of Poulter’s book “No Limits.” The tour director responded quickly, said he knew of the Turners, and promised to shoot a message to Poulter, who lives in Florida and has a son Noah’s age.
Poulter wound up sending Noah the book and several other pieces of swag, and
the families have forged a friendship that Brian Turner says will grow closer when Noah gets to play for the first time with Ian’s son Luke on the Poulters’ home course in Florida. That will come after an experience in Port St. Lucie that, win or lose, is something the Turners probably never imagined their son would have when they first learned about his diabetes.
But Noah is determined, as shown by a spring tournament in which he played the first six or seven holes poorly and discovered his blood sugar was dangerously low.
“I told him, ‘you have to withdraw and you need to go to the emergency room,’” Brian remembers. “Noah looked at us, trembling and sweating. He was pale as a ghost. He said, ‘give me whatever you can in that snack bag to get my sugar up. I may have diabetes, but diabetes doesn’t have me.’”
After a Gatorade, a few Yoo Hoos and some Fruit Gushers, Noah finished the round with a comeback victory.