VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Chris Biggins remembers standing in the front yard in Clarksville, Maryland, and calling a golf shot that hooked 30 yards around a tree to his brother, who caught the plastic ball with a baseball glove. Biggins’ friend, Ian Chalmers, called it one of the most incredible things he’d ever seen.
“As someone who is not very impressive even walking,” said Biggins, who was born with cerebral palsy, “being able to impress people with something was something I got addicted to. It just felt cool to do stuff that was extraordinary … stuff that you really shouldn’t be able to do, I guess.”
Chris Biggins watches his tee shot on hole 14 during the first round at the 2022 U.S. Adaptive Open at Pinehurst Resort & C.C. (Course No. 6) in Village of Pinehurst, N.C. on Monday, July 18, 2022. (Robert Beck/USGA)
Biggins, 30, opened up the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open with a 2-over 74, four shots off the pace set by U.S. Army veteran Chad Pfeifer in the men’s division at Pinehurst No. 6. The best golfer in his county growing up, Biggins played collegiate golf at Methodist and is now Director of Player Development at The Country Club of Birmingham. Last year, the plus 2.8 handicap shot 9-under 63 en route to victory at the GSGA Adaptive Golf Championship.
“Looking back,” said Chalmers, who drove over five hours from Maryland to watch Biggins compete on Monday, “we didn’t give him a break for a second. We didn’t treat him any different from the start.”
Chris Biggins, 30, was born with cerebral palsy. The PGA pro works at the CC of Birmingham and carries a +2.8 handicap. pic.twitter.com/YPm7bYKvSn
— Beth Ann Nichols (@GolfweekNichols) July 18, 2022
At her son’s one-year check-up, Robin Biggins asked the doctor how she could teach him how to go from lying to sitting and from sitting to standing. After checking out a few things, the doctor came over and hugged Robin, telling her that she’d need to have him checked out at the local children’s hospital.
Robin fought back tears on the 17th hole Monday as she relived that life-changing moment.
As they started going to therapy twice a week, Robin couldn’t help but think they were taking up someone else’s spot. As Chris grew older, however, the tightness became more apparent.
Biggins had braces on both legs until the 10th grade. In all, he’s had 17 procedures. Robin said it usually takes two therapists to pull his legs apart, they’re so tight from the spastic diplegia. Robin said Chris pushed himself to do everything his brothers, Patrick and Michael, did.
While many in the field this week use a cart, Biggins walks the fairways to keep from tightening up even more.
“He didn’t realize, I think, that he was different until the second or third grade,” said Robin. “There were one or two bullies, and the other kids didn’t put up with it.”
Chris Biggins and fiancé Heather Tapscott post after Round 1 at Pinehurst No. 6. (Golfweek photo)
Heather Tapscott met her fiancé on Bumble, an online dating app. She saw a picture of Biggins high-fiving his dog Hank in the mountains and was smitten. Several days after their match, Biggins told her about his disability and said he’d understand if she didn’t want to pursue anything.
“I felt awful when he told me that,” she said. “He shouldn’t have to tell people that.”
Their first date was Sept. 13, 2019. They plan to elope next February in Zion National Park. Biggins would’ve liked a wedding, she said. He’s been the best man in so many already. But, as a person who can count her dear friends on two fingers, Tapscott didn’t want to begin a deep search to even out the wedding party.
They’ll have a gathering when they return to Birmingham.
“Anywhere we go in town,” she said, “everybody loves Chris.”
Especially the kids. Coach Biggs, as he’s known, runs the junior program at The Country Club of Birmingham and last year, 243 kids competed in the club championship. Biggins expects even more when it’s held in two weeks. Tapscott recently went to the club to watch Biggins play Elvis in a skit. Naturally, the crowd went wild.
When asked if the kids were blowing up his phone this week, Biggins said he’d kept it off, just as he tells his students to do at tournaments.
“I can’t possibly break my own rules,” he said, smiling.
In fact, Biggins said competing against the 10- to 18-year-olds at the club ahead of this event has been the best training he’s had in years.
“I’m playing for them,” he said.
For years, Biggins dreamed of skiing in the Paralympics. Every winter he’d go out to Park City, Utah, for several months to train at the National Ability Center. After last season, he decided to hang up his skis and focus on the next chapter of life with Tapscott.
But the Paralympics dream is still alive, however – for golf. Biggins’ father, Mark, hopes that with the USGA and R&A now so supportive of Adaptive Golf, that golf might soon be included.
Biggins already travels the world for the G4D (Golf for Disabled) Tour, a DP World Tour-sponsored, seven-event circuit that is held on the same course during the same tournament week. Next month, he’ll travel to Northern Ireland for an event held during the ISPS Handa World Invitational. Mark said officials take care of the disabled players in those events as if they were Rory McIlroy.
Biggins brothers: Patrick, Michael, Chris courtesy photo)
As Mark Biggins made his way around No. 6, he made a point to thank volunteers. One by one, they responded with how inspired they feel this week.
“I look around,” said Mark, “and all I see is heroes all around me.”
Biggins didn’t try to ride a bike until high school, his mom said. The motion of flexing the foot proved extremely difficult, but he made it work.
Chalmers laughed as he recalled a time he and Biggins were waiting for the school bus when Biggins fell down the icy hill in front of his house. When Chalmers tried to help, he too fell down, and they spent a good deal of time flailing around on the ice as the bus waited.
The kind and laid-back Biggins always has had a good sense of humor about things. His fiancé says she’s responsible for the beer when they go out to breweries.
“He shouldn’t be carrying delicate things,” she said.
With the exception of the trophy, of course.
“This is going to be one of the greatest weeks of my life,” said Biggins.
“Regardless how I end up shooting. It’s just such a monumental event. Hopefully, people watching will want to pick up golf and want to start playing because of us.”