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Layd'n Hinderliter - The Chase Kat with the heart of a Lion

KANSAS PREGAME

By Gary Van Cleave kansaspregame@gmail.com

CHASE - There may not be a better inspirational story in the state than the one developing here in rural central Kansas.

The Chase Kats have a real life hero these days. He’s 4-foot-7, 95-pound sophomore Layd’n Hinderliter, who the past eight years has battled cancer. He was eight when he was told he had Neuroblastoma Stage 4 cancer, a rare form of cancer that develops in nerve tissue.

A year later as a fourth grader at Chase Elementary, he started playing golf. Never mind he shot a 160 in his first 18-hole score recorded. His score was immaterial considering what he fought in everyday life.

Which is what makes this story one for the ages, and for the Kleenex, as on Wednesday, the boy who could probably win the Chase mayoral election by a landslide, accomplished a major goal when he qualified for the KSHSAA State Sand Green Golf Tournament with a career-best 90 at the sand green course in McCracken.

“I was happy and excited. I mainly wanted to qualify because I wanted to beat my brother Lance who made it as a junior,” the ‘anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better younger brother said. “It feels good to get there my sophomore year and beat him.”

The mischievous side even carried over on how he told his dad on the way home.

“The whole ride home he was asking what I shot. I told him I didn’t play like I wanted to,” the poker-faced Hinderliter said. “When I got home I handed him my score card. He was excited and he asked if the course was harder.”

“Sand Green competition does not have a regional,” Chase coach Mike Marzolf said. “If a player shoots a 95 or better during any tournament, they qualify.”

Marzloff checked in on him throughout the meet. 

“The first nine, when he shot a 49, I didn’t think it was going to be the day he qualified,” the Kat coach said. “But as the second nine progressed, I checked in on him again. I saw he was scoring well. At that point I didn’t really say much about qualifying but kept an eye on him. He knew he was doing well, I knew he was doing well, but kept my distance to watch.”

Hinderliter entered the par-4 18th at 86 strokes, needing a 9 or better to etch his name on the State Sand Green golf card. 

“Before I played my last hole, I counted up my score and was nervous,” Hinderliter said. “Coach Mike walked up on the last green and I was more nervous.”

“On the final hole I made my way to the green for his approach shot. He knocked it on the green and putted it in for par,” Marzolf said. “He gave a little fist pump. I knew he knew he had qualified. I had to walk away as I started to tear up.”

“I made a long drive and was able to one-putt for a par,” Hinderliter said. “I was happy because it’s my best score overall.”

“I said ‘You know you just qualified for state don’t you!’ He got a big smile and answered yes,” Marzolf said. “I could tell he was absolutely on Cloud 9. The smile on his face was absolutely priceless.”

His round was defined on hole 7 when he had a major decision to make. 

“You had to go around the trees or over them. I decided to go over them and landed my ball 10 feet off the green,” Hinderliter, brimming with confidence, said.

In his only other tournament this year, he shot a 100.

“This was just my second tournament. Last year I shot a 98. I practiced over the summer a lot. I wanted to get to state this year,” he said.

“This was something he really wanted. We had talked about it and knew it was doable,” Marzolf said. “It was a matter of having the stamina to get it done. KSHSAA has a waiver that allows the use of a cart in situations like this. He would not be able to walk 18 holes. Kudos to KSHSAA for allowing him and others in situations like his for giving the kids a chance.”

A chance Hinderliter used on Wednesday to show his true John Wayne grit.

“Very little gets Layd’n down. He misses a week at a time everytime he has to go in for his treatments, but always comes back with a smile and his face ready to take on the world,” his proud coach said. 

He’s even noticed on the basketball court. Despite the Kats’ 0-18 record, former Fairfield High standout Jarod Bauman noticed Hinderliter in a tournament this winter at Fairfield.

“Even though he’s small, he’s got the biggest heart out on the court,” Bauman, who calls Hinderliter’s story ‘remarkable’, said. “Being the smallest on the court he’s never afraid to shoot the ball.”

Hinderliter said he does consider himself, to an extent, a hero to others.

“To an extent I like to feel that way,” he noted. “Anyone who fights cancer is a kind of a hero.”

“Layd’n has a huge fan club here. Everyone is a supporter of his,” Marzolf said. “There have been numerous fundraisers and the like for him over the years. The support he has from the Chase community and the school is tremendous. 

“Is he a hero to others? I would say he is. The students in the school treat him like any other student. But they look out for him. He has an entire school full of bodyguards if he needs them.”

As a 3rd grader, “my back hurt. I really didn’t understand what was happening,” he remembered before being told his illness. “The goal has been trying to put it in remission and fight it.”

And fight he has. The 95-pound champion with a heavyweight heart and determination has thrown continuous right hooks and knockout blows at cancer in his young life. 

“I’ve had like 40 treatments or so. They are painful. The chemo hurts,” he said. “It makes me sick.”

He has scans next week but treatment is set for the third week of May in Wichita. The week before state tournament. 

“It is a concern on his stamina at state, yes,” Marzolf noted.

He hopes to land a knockout punch to cancer soon.

“I think we are getting close but not sure. We’ve been there before so we are cautious about it,” the boy with a heart bigger than Rice County said. “We just did extend them from five weeks to six weeks.”

Has he ever asked ‘Why me?’

“I have asked that. Yes,” he said. “I just think it is something everyone asks when something bad happens to them.”

Anthony Broeder is in his first year at Chase. He coached Layd’n in football and basketball this year.

“The thing with Layd’n is he always has a smile. Nothing gets him down,” Broeder said. “He has a great heart and tenacity. Give me five players with his attitude and fight and I’ll give you a pretty good team.”

Mitch Light recently retired, according to Marzolf. He taught in the grade school in Chase for around 40 years. He coached multiple sports during this time. He is on the city council. He is Chase.

“Mitch struggles to talk about Layd’n without having to stop and gather himself to keep from tearing up,” Marzolf said. “He still wears the first bracelet that was a fundraiser for Layd’n from when he was first diagnosed in third grade. He coached Layd’n his freshman year in basketball and golf.”

“He’s been through so much and endured more than anyone can imagine. I’ve never met a tougher individual in my life,” Light said. “I was in the military. I know some special forces guys. So I don’t just say that with a grain of salt.”

Light continued.

“He’s an inspiration to me every time I see him. I tell everyone I know how great of a kid he is. It doesn’t matter if he is lying in the hospital bed and just got done with treatment he never complains,” he said. “Every time I see him he has a smile on his face.”

Light concluded.

“When I get down I tell myself whatever I’m going through doesn’t hold a candle to what he has gone through. Every time I see him he inspires me,” Light said. “I am so happy for him.”

“Congratulations Layd'n, we are all proud of you,” Marzolf said.

Hinderliter has developed the Jim Valvano attitude in his daily fight with cancer and life.

“To never give up on yourself,” he said, “and keep a positive attitude throughout the process.”

His message to others who battle cancer on an everyday basis?

“Keep fighting and keep setting goals. Do your best to hit those goals.”

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