Youth on Course Honors Cretin-Derham Hall's Traxler with College Scholarship
May 11, 2020
By Nick Hunter
ST. PAUL, Minn. – At the age of 18, senior John Traxler has already dealt with more adversity than the majority of his classmates he passes every day in the halls of Cretin-Derham Hall High School. Through a number of health issues and now a global pandemic, which has transformed nearly every aspect of society as we know it, Traxler says he’s managed to emerge with an optomistic outlook and remains eager to discover what lies ahead.
“I’ve come away very positive and I think I have a good mindset,” said Traxler. “It’s taught me a lot and I’ve learned from it—it’s helped me become a better person. I think it’s made me braver and stronger, so I feel I can overcome whatever difficult obstacles come at me.
“It was really saddening that I wasn’t going to be able to go back to school,” said Traxler when Minnesota Governor cancelled the remainder of the 2019-20 school year last month. “Then [Minnesota State High School League] also announced that all activities and sports were cancelled. I was really looking forward to playing golf this spring—that’s the only thing I can do. It was really hard, but I’ve been through a lot worse things.”
Traxler, who goes by Jack, grew up playing golf, hockey and baseball with his dad and two older brothers. Diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade, Traxler faced his next big challenge when he learned he had type 1 diabetes in 2014.
“My sixth-grade year, it was February when I was diagnosed and it was a two or three-day ordeal.”
While adjusting to a new normal, Traxler’s young life would change drastically yet again when he started getting a series of headaches six months later. When the headaches became unbearable, Traxler was referred to a neurologist.
“I went in, had an MRI and they told me that I had a brain tumor in the back of my head. It’s kind of ironic because the brain tumor was about the size of a golf ball. I remember his exact words and everything about that day.”
Traxler was directly admitted at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis and immediately placed in the care of Dr. Mahmoud Nagib, a well-known presence in the medical community both locally and nationally. He was named one of the nations best doctors by the Top Doctors 2012 edition, and has been listed as one of Minnesota’s best surgeons for the past two decades.
“He’s really good at his job and I’m happy that he did the surgery, because [the tumor] was in a very difficult location. It was connected to my cerebellum, which is pretty much connected to everything.
“It could’ve gone other ways and we didn’t really know what was going to happen. It was a scary time; it was difficult and I didn’t understand any of it. I understand a lot more of it now, but it’s still hard to think about. I don’t want to remember being in the hospital because it’s not a proud moment of mine.”
Undergoing extensive rehabilitation and therapy that lasted into his freshman year of high school, Traxler was ready to feel like a regular teenager again, playing the sports he was so accustomed to before his health issues began.
“I wanted to be an athlete because my two brothers played sports and I wanted to find something that felt like I was still playing and be competitive,” he said. “I turned to golf and it really helped me overcome these obstacles.”
“[Golf] has taught to be patient and that if you can wait, you’ll get your time. The game will give back,” Traxler said. “I had already played golf for about six years and I knew I could do it. I have right side facial paralysis, and I had some balance issues that have gotten better. I knew tracking the golf ball would be difficult, and I still have difficulty seeing the ball, but I usually find a way to get to my ball.”
Once he became a member of the junior varsity golf team during his junior year, it was suggested by boys golf coach, Charlie Lallas, that Traxler and other members of the golf team join the Youth on Course program.
“Youth on Course is a great opportunity to play at some very nice golf courses at reduced rates. There are a lot of golf courses in Minnesota that offer it and I haven’t had the opportunity to play at some of those higher end golf courses.
Evolving from the Northern California Golf Association in 2006, the Youth on Course program stretches across 38 regions of the U.S. on 1,700 available courses, helping over 70,000 members play more than 950,000 rounds of golf year-to-date since its inception.
In its fourth season locally, the program has attracted 4,700 junior golfers to more than 80 participating courses in Minnesota at the close of the 2019 season.
Thanks in large part to his work within the community—a member of the Link Crew, a group of junior and seniors who lend their assistance to incoming freshman and as manager for the boys varsity hockey team during his sophomore and junior year, as well as his work in classroom—Traxler was named one of 19 Youth on Course Scholarship winners for 2020.
“I’m grateful for Youth on Course because it’s given me a lot of opportunities and allowed me to experience new golf courses. I would tell kids to join because it’s really beneficial and it’s a great deal. More people need to take advantage of it.”
Traxler was also recognized by Cretin-Derham Hall during his junior year, winning the Greg Marzolf Junior Scholarship Award for his senior year.
“I have a slower processing speed because I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was in third grade. But I’ve always done a good job throughout my schooling because I have over a 4.0 GPA. I work hard and I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.”
Gaining acceptance to Iowa State University last fall, Traxler said he intends to focus on engineering and science when he travels to Ames, Iowa this fall. His aspiration now is to find a way to help individuals adapt after traumatic and significant health issues.
“My goal is to make life better for kids who go through similar things like me. I feel like a lot needs to be done to help kids have a better life and experience after [health issues],” Traxler explained. “The hardest thing for me was rejoining and engaging in society. I didn’t really know how to do that and I was kind of shy. It was such a hard time.
“I feel like everyone needs to have a positive mindset and know that things will get better. It’s not going to be bad every day—you need to have that attitude—that’s the most important thing.”