The human side of Jon Rahm

The Spanish golfer, recent champion of the Masters, suffered a major health issue with his foot. He helped a child with the same physical anomaly.

Jon Rahm has just joined the exclusive club of champions of the Masters. On April 9, 2023, he won his second major, after triumphing in the 2021 edition of the U.S. Open. At 28 years old, he still has plenty of time to elevate his career to the level of golf's greatest. But what many people don't know is that, to get to this point, he had to overcome a tough obstacle at birth.

On Nov. 10, 1994, Rahm was born in Barrica, a town located in northern Spain. The Spanish golfer came into the world with a physical anomaly in his right foot that would have prevented him from walking normally had he not undergone surgery. This defect is popularly known as clubfoot.

As soon as he was born, the Spanish golfer had to undergo surgery to correct this condition. This was followed by a long rehabilitation process, which is still ongoing today. As a result of this physical problem, he had to adapt his swing. At a press conference ahead of the 2021 British Open, Rahm explained how the recovery process went:

I have been a professional for five years. This is the first time I've been asked this question at a tournament, and I'm tired of hearing that the reason I have a short swing is that my hips are too close together or things like that. For those who don't know, I was born with a clubfoot on my right leg. That means that my leg up to my ankle was straight, but my foot was turned 90 degrees inward and basically up and down. So when I was born my ankle bones were broken, I had a cast from the knee down when I was barely 20 minutes in the world and every week I had to go to the hospital, so from the knee down my leg did not grow at the same rate. I have very limited ankle mobility in my right leg, which is also a centimeter and a half shorter than my left. I can't make a full swing because my right ankle doesn't have the mobility or stability to do so. So from a very young age I learned to be more efficient at creating power and more consistent with a short swing. My ankle simply can't take it. I arch my wrist and that's how I hit.

Conscientious of others

An estimated 120,000 children are born with clubfoot each year, 1,000 of them in the United States. One of them is Phoenix Small, who was born with this physical anomaly 15 years ago in Salt Lake City.

The difference with respect to Rahm is that Phoenix was born with this problem in both feet, in addition to suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage and a virus that affected his lungs. His parents had to prioritize these issues and put Phoenix's feet aside for a while to focus on saving him and healing his vital organs. Chariti, his mother, explained:

Those first days were exhausting. We were scared and tired and didn't know what the future held in store for our family, which is the scariest thing of all, the unknown. There were a lot of prayers on that baby's behalf; but all we could do is leave it in God’s hands. Thankfully the prayers worked, and he came home two weeks later. He had a long road ahead of him, but he improved quicker than doctors thought he would.

After recovering from the brain hemorrhage and his lungs, the Small family's efforts focused on healing his feet. Phoenix had to undergo invasive surgery, the same as Rahm. Years later, the Spanish golfer heard about Phoenix's case and wanted to meet him. "He's the first person I've ever met that had this condition. Someone who was born with both club feet," Rahm said during a press conference.

The Spanish golfer invited him to the 2022 WM Phoenix Open and had the opportunity to walk the grounds with Rahm and watch the tournament.