The Inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open begins a new chapter in USGA history, giving players like Biggins a chance at a national championship

Chris Biggins affectionately describes his golf swing as controlled chaos.

And with good reason.

Watch Biggins wind up and follow through with every ounce of energy — trying not to fall down on each swipe at the golf ball — and it’s hard to believe he can get anything accomplished on the course, let alone shoot par or better.

But the 30-year-old Biggins knows all too well about how balance is the key to a successful golf game. The former Methodist University golfer and now director of player development as a PGA pro at The Country Club of Birmingham was born with cerebral palsy and has undergone 17 operations.

Biggins is now one of the best impaired golfers in the world and is a favorite in July to capture his division title at the first-ever USGA Adaptive Open Championship at Pinehurst No. 6. And yes, he routinely shoots par or better.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Biggins, who played college golf in nearby Fayetteville and was a graduate of Methodist University’s PGM program in 2014 with a degree in business administration and a concentration in golf management before he headed to Alabama to settle into his golf teaching career.

“For me growing up my goal has always to be an athlete and golf is the sport that affects me the least,” Biggins said.

Chris Biggins plays his shot from the 2nd tee during the U.S. Adaptive Open Preview Day at Pinehurst No. 6 in Pinehurst, N.C. on Monday, March 28, 2022. (Copyright USGA/James Gilbert)
Chris Biggins plays his shot from the 2nd tee during the U.S. Adaptive Open Preview Day at Pinehurst No. 6 in Pinehurst, N.C. on Monday, March 28, 2022. (Copyright USGA/James Gilbert)

Biggins beat the long odds by making the golf team at Methodist, a powerhouse Division III program.

“Making the golf team was quite a feat for Chris since we’ve done pretty well, winning our 13th national championship this year,” said longtime Methodist coach Steve Conley. “Chris came through the PGA program and we have open tryouts for the team. I met him when he first visited the university but he wasn’t necessarily high on my list of players. But the kid was just an absolute worker. He was determined to make the team, which he did.”

Biggins wasn’t satisfied just being on the golf team. He continued to hone his game to try to make Methodist’s top five players, which ensures a spot in college tournaments.

“That was a tall order, especially with his condition because he doesn’t hit it the farthest,” Conley said. “But I’ll be darn if he didn’t earn his way into an eight-team event at Camp Lejeune and helped us win a tournament his senior year. The guys couldn’t have been happier for a guy like Chris.”

Conley once suggested Biggins could petition the NCAA to take a golf cart, or at least use a push cart. Biggins was having none of it.

“He was like, ‘No way, no way, I’m not going to do it,”’ Conley recalls. “But that is Chris’ spirit, he is determined to do whatever he sets his mind to do he does. He works out like an absolute animal.”

Conley recalls the first time he met Biggins.

“You watch him walk and that tells you all you need to know,” Conley said. “It’s a battle. But when you talk to Chris he doesn’t make you think it’s a battle. He hits the ball pretty good for what he’s dealing with but the main thing about Chris is he’s just relentless. He’s a fierce competitor so it doesn’t surprise me to see the things he’s accomplishing.”

Biggins recalls his first golf lesson, which was attended by his mother and physical therapist.

“I would almost trip and fall down in order to get my weight through the ball and my therapist and my mom said, ‘He may fall down if he does this,’’’ Biggins said. “My (golf) teacher told my mom and therapist to go sit in the car. She said to me ‘you are going to probably fall a few times trying this and are you OK with that?’ I said, ‘Bring it on.”’

Biggins was 12 at the time and he now pokes fun at his balance issues.

“I am really good at falling,” he said. “Sometimes on side-hill lies it’s tough, but I have been (swinging) the same way for such a long time it’s just how I do it and I really don’t think about it. I really haven’t fallen recently but I’m on the edge because I have to catch up to the big hitters so I go at it 110 percent.”

Biggins, with all his seemingly unorthodox swings, can stroke it about 250 on average off the tee.

“Usually the parents are the kid’s heroes but my kid is my hero,” said Mark Biggins, who along with his wife Robin are traveling from Maryland to North Carolina, renting a house for the week with about a dozen relatives, to watch their son compete.

“We’ll have quite a contingent watching Chris,” his father said.

The elder Biggins watched his son compete in other sports like baseball as a youngster and saw his son getting frustrated.

“He was really athletic but his participation was depending on other people’s opinions so he took his future into his own hands and he worked constantly at golf,” Mark Biggins said.

Playing as the 1st hole for the U.S. Adaptiive Open, from Pinehurst No. 6.
Playing as the 1st hole for the U.S. Adaptiive Open, from Pinehurst No. 6.

Biggins learned how to make contact with the golf ball with a “step-through method” that he has perfected over the years into what is now a world-class game for adaptive golfers.

Robin Biggins said when her son was a year old he still couldn’t go from laying to sitting and from sitting to standing. She took him to see a doctor, who gave the baby Biggins a few simple physical instructions he couldn’t accomplish. The doctor then walked over and hugged Robin.

“He told me he needed to go to a children’s hospital to get evaluated,” she said. “That was the first inkling that there was something else going on.”

Biggins didn’t crawl until he was 17 months old and didn’t walk until he was 20 months old.

Robin chuckles now that one of Chris’ nicknames from his two brothers is “Chris Falls.”

Biggins recalled when the USGA made the announcement that the Adaptive Open would be launching its inaugural championship in Pinehurst in July 2022.

“All my friends from college sent me the posts,” Biggins said. “This is so huge. People overseas are going to want to play in it; people who aren’t quite in the competitive arena yet are going to want to train to be in it.”

“He wants to be the winner,” his father added. “He is very focused on that, actually been focused on it ever since they announced they were going to have it. This is what this whole year has been about for him, winning this USGA national championship.”