CHULA VISTA, Calif. – The birds are chirping, the sky is blue and for 5-year-old Mikey Manka, there’s no better afternoon than one spent on the golf course in Oceanside.
“Every morning I’ll wake up and just hit some balls,” Manka said.
What at first appears to be a simple life for the young Chula Vista golfer has been a journey for he and his family. They say Manka making it to the fairway is nothing short of a miracle.
“OK, so Mikey was early,” said Tina Zepeda, Mikey’s mother. “He was 35 weeks.”
Manka was born 4 pounds, 2 ounces, with bleeding on both sides of the brain that led to mild paralysis. “It was scary,” Zepeda said.
Manka spent the first month of his life in the newborn intensive care unit. Doctors told the family that he wouldn’t be able to walk, or even sit up.
“We sent positive vibes,” Zepeda said. We prayed for him. We did everything we could early to prevent him from not being able to walk and his brain rewired to heal.”
Slowly, Mikey recovered, eventually walking and finding solace in a sport he says he’s been playing a while.
“I’ve been golfing for two years,” said Mikey, “so pretty much a long time.”
He started picking up golf at age 2, hitting with plastic clubs in his backyard.
“He doesn’t feel different because when he’s on the course with other kids, every kid has challenges so he doesn’t feel like he’s any different,” Zepeda said.
Although he’s not yet old enough to go to kindergarten, he’s already practicing becoming a professional golfer.
“I want to be like all of them,” Manka said, “like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy.”