Get Up, Show Up, Tee Up

An Indiana golfer living with Parkinson’s disease raises money for UK HealthCare research

When pro golfer Doug Kuntz says disability is not his gig, he means it. Before 5 a.m. Kuntz inches out of bed, muscles stiff and tendons tight, and swallows the first of four-to-five daily rounds of medication. He can barely stand. By daybreak, he arrives at his office in the Richmond Elks Lodge & Country Club and the symptoms of his Parkinson’s disease are draining from his body. His nerves fire on point, flexibility replaces rigidity, and he steps onto the course for the day’s first appointments. Kuntz, of Richmond, Ind., admits this as-yet incurable disease he’s fended off for the past decade was not part of his life plan. “But, I hate to put it this way, Parkinson’s has made me a better man,” he said from atop the ninth green on a bright May morning. 

Experts at the UK HealthCare Kentucky Neuroscience Institute (KNI) Movement Disorders Clinic manage Kuntz’s case. They are assisted in no small measure by his high-gear work ethic, enthusiastic optimism, and drive to keep himself in shape.   

Kuntz’s wife, Marianne, family, community members and fellow Parkinson’s patients all benefit from his newfound appreciation for life. The most public showcase of this is the Pro’s Players Fore Parkinson’s, an annual golf tournament he founded in 2010. In ten years, the tournament has raised and donated more than $640,000 to Parkinson’s research at KNI and through the Michael J. Fox Foundation, as well as Rock Steady Boxing, a rehabilitation program in Richmond. “The tournament has become a signature event of Wayne County,” Kuntz said.

He's taking it on

In 2007, a colleague asked why Kuntz was holding one arm up to his chest, something Kuntz had not noticed. “After about a year of going through all the tests and processes you’d expect anybody to go through, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in February 2009,” he said. His stepdaughter P.J. and her husband had gone to the University of Kentucky and knew of Parkinson’s expert John Slevin, MD, medical director of the UK HealthCare Movement Disorders program. 

“Doug has a very healthy attitude about his disease,” Slevin said. “He realizes it’s progressive. He’s taking it on and making a difference in the Parkinson’s community.” For Kuntz, the three-hour drive between Richmond, Ind., and Lexington is worth receiving personalized care from Slevin and the clinic staff at KNI.

Facing Parkinson’s, Kuntz quickly grasped the big-picture importance of research. Kuntz – often referred to by his nickname, Pro – channeled his energy, magnetic personality and extensive list of contacts into the Pro’s Players Fore Parkinson’s golf tournament.

“The money from his golf tournament is directly supporting the research we do here,” said Slevin.

Rehabilitating workout

In addition to research at KNI, tournament proceeds also support Rock Steady Boxing, a rehabilitating workout program Kuntz helped bring to the Reid Hospital in Richmond. The noncontact, boxing-inspired workout employs speed bags, heavy bags, volleyball, hockey and other methods to increase mobility and independence. Kuntz holds the program in high regard for the physically intensive exercise he gets three times weekly and for the psychological momentum it affords dozens of participants. 

“Because of the tournament and the funds it raises, I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Pro, I can tie shoes now, whereas I couldn’t before Rock Steady Boxing.’” 

More than 10 years post-diagnosis, Kuntz is still showing up – on the green and for life. Kuntz feels best when he’s out on the course, medications at full effect, body in fighting form. “It still amazes me,” he said. “I get on the course and get in the zone. All of a sudden it’s like I don’t have Parkinson’s.” 

Make an impact

Through private support, the UK Kentucky Neuroscience Institute can fully realize its potential as a state-of-the-art, comprehensive academic center. Philanthropy enables our physicians, nurses and researchers to do what they do even better – make a difference in the care of not only Kentuckians but in individuals around the world. 

If you are interested in helping make an impact in the lives of those affected by neurological disease or trauma, contact: 

UK HealthCare Office of Philanthropy
300 West Vine St., Suite 601
Lexington KY 40507