Union golfer deals with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

Union senior Lauren Williams nearly had to give up golf this season when the pain associated with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis became so severe she would walk off the course or the driving range in tears.

But new medications, new therapy, and new golf clubs that reduce the vibrations that would rock her wrists and fingers have allowed her to continue with her playing career.

Our story on her comeback will run in Wednesday’s paper. Here are some notes that did not make the story:

A secret no more: When Lauren was diagnosed when she was 13, she did not want to tell anybody. That included her teachers. She is open to sharing her story now, in an effort to help anybody else who might be going through the same ordeal.

She has acquaintances who have just recently learned of the constant pain in her fingers, wrists, and knees.

“A lot of people at our school don’t know I have arthritis. People just link arthritis with older people. Sometimes teens can get it, too.”

Grades stumble: Lauren takes advanced placement and honors classes at Union, but it was a struggle her first couple of years. Used to taking notes, of writing down everything in those classes, she could not keep up with the lectures.

“I was so angry because nobody knew,” said Lauren’s mother, Zoe. “She wouldn’t say anything. She couldn’t write fast enough.”

That, along with the pain and adjusting to life with JRA, sent her grades into downward spiral. In middle school, she had a 3.7 GPA. In high school, it fell to 2.7.

Her teachers were eventually told and Lauren has adapted her note-taking skills. She has since brought up her accumulative GPA to a 3.0, with a 3.7 last semester.

Parents there for her: Zoe and Mike Williams could not stand to see their daughter in pain, but they also did not want to see her lose something she loves dearly. They started inquiring about golfers with arthritis. Eventually, Lauren got the new golf shafts.

Still, she was reluctant to give them a try.

“My parents kind of forced me to,” Lauren said.

“Encouraged,” Mike corrected.

“Yes, encouraged,” Lauren conceded.

Whatever, it worked.

Good days, bad days: A month after returning to the game, she was a medalist in a dual match. But like any golfer, some days are better than others on the course.

Last week at the Chieftain Invitational, Lauren struggled through an 18-hole round. She knew why immediately.

“The day before, I overworked my joints,” Lauren said. “The next day, I found out I can’t do that. I can’t overwork or I kill my body the next day. It was the first time I was in pain in a very long time playing golf. I learned my lesson.”

Goal: The last two years, Lauren has missed going to regionals by one stroke. She is hoping to make it past district this season.

Scroll to top