Learn about managing celiac disease while working as a professional athlete on tour! Tips for finding gluten-free food and raising awareness.
By Vanessa Maltin
NFCA Director of Programming & Communications
When I think about playing a round of golf, I picture sunny skies, beautiful green grass, crystal clear lakes and the occasional sand trap. I think about breathing in the fresh air and hopefully finding the perfect club to hit a hole-in-one. I think about good times on the course with family and friends and of course, the 19th hole (aka eating and drinking after the round).
Although it would incredible to only have these warm and fuzzy thoughts about golf, people with celiac disease have to be a little bit more careful and plan ahead. And that’s exactly what LPGA Tour Professional Sarah-Jane Kenyon does every day before heading to the golf course.
As the new Athletes for Awareness Spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, Sarah will be sharing her story and keeping us posted of her gluten-free dining experiences while on the professional golfers tour!
So, who is Sarah-Jane Kenyon???
Sarah is a native Australian and started playing golf at the young age of 12. She quickly showed promise and by age 13 she was competing in tournaments all across Australia. In 2002 she was the Australian Junior Champion and in 2003, winner of the Queensland 72-hold Championship. She finished 10th in the 2004 Australian Open and competed in the 2006 U.S. Women’s Open Championship. Now, at 23, Sarah is competing as a member of the LPGA tour.
Pretty impressive isn’t it?! What’s even more impressive is that she manages to keep up with the rigors of the LPGA tour all while managing a gluten-free diet!
Sarah only recently began experiencing symptoms of celiac disease. Her symptoms included gastrointestinal discomfort, headaches and severe fatigue, none of which allowed her to perform at her best while on the professional golfers tour. Luckily, Sarah knew what might be happening — her mother, Sharon, has celiac disease, so when the symptoms appeared, it took no time at all to figure out the cause!
“I started feeling poorly whenever I ate ‘normal’ foods, like bread and pasta,” said Kenyon. “Since my mother has celiac, I knew right away that I might be susceptible because the disease is genetic. Since I started on a gluten-free diet, I’ve felt much better.”
With a cure to her problems in place, Sarah is speaking out to help other athletes in the United States get diagnosed and manage a successful gluten-free diet while on the go!
How does she do it?
Before Sarah knew what was causing her distress, she says she lived on Panera and Quiznos while traveling to tournaments. Now she says she has to plan ahead. She always keeps fresh fruit, vegetables and rice cakes with her on the golf course and says she is lucky that the LPGA tour organizers always keep healthy foods on hand for the players to eat.
However, Sarah was sure to say that the United States is nothing like her home country of Australia.
“In Australia, there are tons of gluten-free options! There are bakeries and restaurants and even Starbucks has gluten-free food!”
The bottom line she says, is that people in Australia truly understand the disease and in turn there are an abundance of delicious gluten-free food options.
As the Athletes for Awareness Spokeswoman, Sarah will wear the NFCA logo on her apparel and golf bag throughout the LPGA tour season and will work to promote awareness among fans and at events sponsored by the NFCA.
Hopefully the gluten-free diet, coupled with support from the NFCA will help Sarah play even better golf!