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Paris Wildcat Tate Lewis, pictured center and surrounded by family members and Paris High School coaching staff, recently signed with UT-Dallas to continue his golf career.

Having undergone five open heart surgeries, pursuing an athletic career hasn’t always been easy for Paris Wildcat Tate Lewis. However, through determination and hard work, Lewis has not just done the improbable but excelled at it, and he recently committed to the University of Texas at Dallas to continue his golf career at the next level.

Lewis was born with a rare congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means that the left side of his heart didn’t form correctly, requiring close medical attention and often proving to be life-threatening.

Things haven’t been easy for Lewis. He’s undergone a handful of taxing open heart surgeries, he said, and had a number of close calls.

However, Lewis — who has a fiercely competitive streak in him — didn’t let that stop him.

“I really loved soccer and a lot of other sports,” he said. “Because of my heart condition, though, I wasn’t able to play any sports with a lot of contact or a lot of exertion like running. But I’ve always been competitive, and one sport I could still do was golf, so I kind of threw myself into that.”

“The idea that he’s even out there at all is remarkable,” Paris golf coach Randall Lewis said. “To undergo five open heart surgeries and then compete at all, much less at the level that he does, takes a lot of gumption.”

Lewis took to the sport like a fish to water, quickly becoming one of the best golfers of his age in the area, and falling in love with the game of golf along the way.

“Around the age of 10 or 11 I decided I wanted to start competing in tournaments, and that’s when I took my golf game to the next level and taking it more seriously,” Lewis said. “I entered North Texas Junior PGA tournaments, Texas Junior Golf Tour tournaments and just really poured myself into golf.”

“His greatest trait is just how much of a hard worker he is,” Coach Lewis added. “He is as dedicated as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Looking back on his high school career, Lewis pointed to the regional golf tournament in his sophomore year as one of his favorite memories. He had a rough start, hitting a ball in the water early in the tournament. He was able to shake off the shaky start, though, finishing incredibly strong and helping his team qualify for the state tournament by a single stroke.

“I knew I had to get my mindset right going into 18, and my third shot on the par-five, I stuck it about 12 feet and two-putted.”

Coach Lewis also pointed to that performance as one of the most memorable moments in Lewis’ athletic career as a Paris Wildcat, saying the memory of the performance still makes him somewhat emotional.

When it came time to pick a school to continue his athletic career at, Lewis said the University of Texas at Dallas stood out to him for a few reasons. For one thing, both of his older siblings have taken part in UTD Athletics, including a sister who currently runs on the school’s cross country team, and Lewis said he was eager to carry on the family tradition.

“I want to do for UTD what they did,” he said.

Even apart from the familial legacy, Lewis pointed to UTD’s stellar academic track record and welcoming coaching staff and team as factors that made the school attractive to him.

Looking back on his time as a Paris Wildcat, Lewis said he’s going to miss all the relationships he’s formed with coaches and peers. Looking ahead to the future, though, he’s excited to test his mettle against even tougher competition.

“Moving onto the next level is exciting, and I’m ready for that next step,” he said.

Tommy Culkin is sports editor for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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