PEOPLE OF INTEREST
Bill Sedleckis, left, and Joe Kern walk the halls of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville
go on dialysis and get on a list for a donor. I need a transplant.”
Without skipping a beat, Kern offered, “I’ll give you a
“I was driving,” Sedleckis remembers, “and I almost drove
off the road. I said maybe you should check with your wife.”
Also, Sedleckis wasn’t sure they’d match.
“I’m blood type A positive, it probably wouldn’t work,” he
told Kern, who responded, “my blood type is A positive, too.”
Inside this professional athlete is the heart of an altruist,
graced with a powerful backswing and a follow-through that
explodes with deceptive speed. He can launch a golf ball 280
yards down a fairway, high and straight, a titan missile of a
shot. It’s a major talent, but perhaps eclipsed by a quality of
selflessness, a virtue that distinguishes Kern’s impulses, and
invokes something so personal yet so universal: The willingness
to offer a life-saving gift.
Kern remembers that Sedleckis dropped the conversation
quickly and their fishing trip went on as usual. Finally, on the
way home, Kern offered, “Let me know what you’d like me to
do next.” Sedleckis dismissed it and didn’t mention the kidney
offer again. But Kern had only been home about 10 minutes
when his phone rang. It was Sedleckis calling. “You can
go to the blood bank and they’ll start the process,” he said.
Then came a week of tests at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville
where they discovered that the fishing buddies were a
perfect match. Kern went through the tests with a persistent
thought: “I’m not the sick one, I’m going to make this as easy
on him as possible, I’m not going to complain about being
pricked by needles, it wasn’t easy but it was OK,” he says.
With the tests successfully completed, surgery was scheduled
for April 1, 2017.
That morning at the clinic, they were in dual operating
rooms while Kern’s wife, Kim, and his sister, Eileen, who
had come down from Tennessee, waited with Sedleckis’ wife,
Valerie. Hours later they were finally told that the surgery
The next morning, Kern and Sedleckis were out of bed and
walking the halls together. Sedleckis felt great, and remembers,
“After the third lap around the kidney ward the nurses
were ready to call security.”
Kern was discharged three days later. Sedleckis spent
nearly a month at Mayo for post-op observation and daily
testing until he was cleared to return home. They continue to
Kern is the youngest of eight children, and perhaps growing
up with that many siblings taught him about sharing, and
a sense of community.
His golf career began in high school with a school intercom
announcement recruiting members for the golf team.
“I was one of only two freshmen,” Kern says. “I was terrible,
but the coach needed young guys, and he let me stay on
the team. I’ve probably thought about it every day of my life
Later he worked with David Liddle, the PGA professional
at La Cita Country Club in Titusville. When Liddle moved to
the Doral golf school in Miami to work with golf guru Jimmy
Ballard, Kern went with him.
“Jimmy Ballard taught me how to teach,” Kern says. “He
was working with some of the best players in the world,
Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton, Sandy Lyle.”
Through that association Kern joined the world of professional
golf that had beckoned in high school. “I knew from
the first shot, this is what I’m going to do,” he says.
Lives in: Vero Beach
Family: Wife, Kim
Education: PGA of America
Hobbies: Golf, fishing, outdoors
and all sports
What inspires me: “Helping
people play better golf inspires me.”
Something most people don’t know about me: “My wife
and I foster cats.”
following kidney transplant surgery.
His advice for a successful game: “Golf is one of the few
sports where we self-criticize a bad shot immediately. No
other sport is like that, in others we just try to do better the
next time. With golf we hang onto what we do wrong.”
His positive philosophy on golf is very much in keeping
with the idea of helping a friend in need. He encourages clients
to, “forget shots that don’t go where you want. It’s about
forward thinking, positive thinking.”
In his acceptance speech for the Deacon Palmer award,
Kern said, “Thank you for the award, but I’m more thankful
that Bill’s alive. I did it for that. I had something that a friend
of mine needed. And I would do it again.”
Now Sedleckis says, “I feel wonderful. But the real star of
this kidney transplant is Joe.”
And he’s only troubled by one element. “Bill expected to be
a scratch golfer after the surgery,” Kern says.
“Yeah,” echoes Sedleckis, “He’s a professional athlete, but
it didn’t help my golf game at all.”