How did Butch Lumpkin conquer challenge in sports? Studying

Tennis player and golfer learned the games' mechanics, then adapted for himself

Butch Lumpkin is shown swinging at a golf ball.

Butch Lumpkin is a nationally recognized motivational speaker and multisport athlete. Despite being born with a physical challenge caused by thalidomide, Lumpkin never let his short arms or missing fingers slow him down in any challenge.

No matter the sport, Lumpkin has done it successfully. Lumpkin is one of our feature athletes this year at the Legends for Kids free golf and tennis clinics. Here, he shares how he became involved in sports and his advice for kids just getting into sports.

How did you first get involved in sports?

I got into tennis first. I went down to the public park, and I signed up for lessons, and I loved it. I found out a way to hit a tennis ball different from everybody else.

I really studied how to play golf and tennis. I would go to the public library and check out “how to” books on sports, and I learned how to frame the body and the mechanics of how you swing and move. I really got into golf, believe it or not, when I went to the PlayStation on Tiger Woods golf and I could see how the mechanics worked, and I found different ways to swing that worked for me.

Do you have a favorite sport?

Tennis is my most successful sport; I am known the most for golf.

It’s fun to play around with people in golf. They can try and hit my extra-long 60 inch driver, or I ask people to tee up a golf ball with just their feet, and I give them three tries to tee it up, and then they have to ask for my help, so they get the feeling of what that challenge is like.

I like golf because you can always play a competitive game. I never knew I was going to be able to play golf, so that is such a bonus for me.

I love all sports. I played QB from shotgun and pitched in baseball and had an awesome curveball and fastball, but couldn’t throw a knuckleball — I don’t have enough fingers.

The cool thing about me is there is no “how to” book for me — I am writing my own. When I go about doing things, I don’t look at what I don’t have, but rather I look at what I do have and go from there. I can do things that you can’t do. For instance, in tennis, I can slice a ball and do different things just because of my physical challenge.

What advice is the important to share with kids getting into sports?

If you are going through a physical or mental challenge, you always have resources. And I love to do research and read biographies and study the key moments that some of my favorite athletes went through and made it, and broke down the barrier and how they became what they are today and where they need to be.

When I talk to kids, I say the cool thing about sports is that it gives you the tools to handle things in life. You either win or lose, and when you win, you have to be gracious, and when you lose, you have to know how you can be better. I love what sports can teach you.

The main thing I try and do is to get out there and hit a golf ball, or hit a tennis ball, and show people what is possible, and give the kids a moment of possibility. And maybe there is a kid out there that can take that to another level. You never know the seeds you plant when you are doing it. I just let it all out there and give it my best, and let God do the rest.

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