When Cameroonian golf champion Issa Nlareb Amang lost his legs and most of his fingers to meningitis in 2018, many thought his life in the sport was over. But, thanks to donors, he was able to get prosthetics that allowed him to return to the game and become the only disabled professional golfer in West Africa.
As a child, Issa Nlareb Amang, now 30, liked to play at his neighborhood golf course.
He quickly went from being a ball boy to a caddy, and then from playing golf to becoming a champion of Cameroon and West Africa.
Amang was the first African to gain entry to the ALPS Tour, a non-profit by Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland to improve young golf professionals’ tournament skills.
But during a 2018 tournament in Egypt, Amang caught meningitis, an inflammation of brain and spinal cord membranes.
He went into a coma and, suffering from septic shock, had to have most of his fingers and both legs amputated.
Despite the traumatic loss, Amang says he has never given up. He says it was very complicated to have prosthetics and to be standing, he says. But it was possible because people put their hands together, says Amang, they have contributed.
Amang got prosthetic limbs thanks to golf federations and other donors and was able to get back on the golf course.
Pharmacist Aude Bahounoui, one of Amang’s donors, says that when Amang was sick, she had her doubts. But as the golfer was abroad, he was sending photos to her, showing his training. She says little by little she became confident that Amang was going to make it through.
Amang did recover and became the only disabled professional golfer in West Africa.
He says what he is feeling — he can't say it's a feeling — it's a life he is taking back. Playing golf is the sport of his life, and the feeling floods him because he has no way out, except to play golf, he explains.
Amang’s willpower to keep playing was lauded by Cameroon's main disabled association, Handi Plus.
But the group says more state support is needed for all those with reduced mobility — many of whom are forced to live behind closed doors due to lack of help and stigma.
Honoré Essengué, the president of Handi Plus, says Amang was fortunate to receive solidarity from his friends. Those who have no friends, what are they going to do? At some point, Essengue says, the state will have to take responsibility for the disabled.
As for Amang, he is training for upcoming competitions with the aim of winning Cameroon a gold medal at the next Paralympic Games.