VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, NC – People have always stared at Brandon Canesi, who was born with no hands. He views those moments as an opportunity to shine.
They are people after all, he said, who feel as though they go unnoticed their entire lives.
“I’ve always had a can-do spirit,” said Canesi while warming up for the second round of the US Adaptive Open. “Nothing has ever really stopped me.”
It’s impossible not to notice Canesi on the range. For starters, his clubs stand up out of the bag head-high. Canesi’s custom-made woods are 58 inches, and his irons are 56 inches.
When he picked up his grandfather’s clubs as a 6-year-old, Canesi began to swing the club naturally by anchoring under his arms. Today the ratio is the same, though he has upgraded the custom model his uncle made with him to ones designed by Cobra. The new set, built last fall, aren’t as whippy, which helps with more consistent contact.
“They flew me out to their headquarters,” said Canesi, “sponsored me, perfected my design and took my game to the next level.”
Canesi’s Instagram bio describes him as the “world’s best no-handed golfer.” Followers sometimes reach out and ask where they can get similar clubs. After watching Canesi, who carries a 5.6 handicap index, golf suddenly seemed within reach.
“I’m just trying to show people that there are other ways to get the job done,” said Canesi, echoing the sentiment of many this week.
The players in this inaugural event want to tell their stories, knowing full well that someone out there needs to hear it.
“I was a real little guy,” said Canesi. “Coaches didn’t see my potential or want to give me a chance on a lot of different things.”
His father, Sonny, who is caddying this week, recalled a pee-wee basketball game that went into triple-overtime. Canesi, ever the scrapper, zipped a three from the corner to end it.
“You talk about an eruption,” said Sonny. “I’ve never had to really worry about him because he’s always been that tough little kid from the beginning.”
Extreme sports took over Canesi’s life in his early teens: skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding. He’s actually a certified snowboard instructor.
The passion for golf began to flourish late in high school, when he and his uncle designed his custom clubs. He’d get up every morning and have his coffee with “Morning Drive,” dreaming of the day he’d be on Golf Channel. That moment came after his hole-in-one video went viral.
“One day I woke up, had my cup of coffee and watched myself on ‘Morning Drive,’” he said.
That’s around the time Canesi, who works at Trump National Doral in Miami, was introduced to adaptive golf tournaments. He currently plays in a handful a year but would like that to increase in a big way.
“Every tournament is getting a little more professional, a little bit more legit,” he said. “Nothing can touch this.”
Brandon Canesi, Multiple Limb Amputee, hits from the No. 8 tee box during the first round at the 2022 US Adaptive Open at Pinehurst Resort & CC (Course No. 6) in Village of Pinehurst, NC on Monday, July 18, 2022. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)
Canesi has always loved the movie “Lion King” and has “hakuna matata” tattooed to his ribs.
“Just promotes my attitude,” he said, “no worries.”
Said Sonny: “He wants to be king.”
Every year, Canesi goes out to Las Vegas with the US Adaptive Golf Alliance to put on a clinic for a couple dozen Shriners kids at TPC Summerlin. One year, Bryson DeChambeau hit Canesi’s driver at the clinic and swiped the tee out from underneath the ball, which dropped straight down. Add it to the list of memorable moments the game has already taken him.
“If people are going to look at me,” said Canesi. “I’m going to take that moment to step up and shine, to see it as a blessing in disguise. Golf has done that and more for me.”