Of Palmer, paralysis

Nagy’s guts, famed mentor inspire FHS golf

A substitute teacher and coach of Farragut High School’s golf teams, Kathy Cypherd Nagy has enjoyed or survived three unique experiences: professionally, rehabilitation-wise and in terms of “star power.”

Star power represents a life-long mentorship with the late Arnold Palmer — golfing legend Arnold Palmer — with her membership at Bay Hill Country Club in Orlando, Florida.

“Mr. Palmer took me under his wing ever since I was a little girl,” said Nagy, Florida High School Golfer of the Year in 1993 as a senior at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando who earned a “full-ride” scholarship to Auburn University of the SEC.

Also known by Nagy are PGA champions including Scott Hoke, Larry Ziegler and the late Payne Stewart.

Among LPGA greats she knows are “Nancy Lopez and Jan Stephenson.”

With Nagy late to a family gathering one Thanksgiving when she was “15 or 16,” she recalled her father, John Cypherd, asking someone in the pro shop if they had seen his daughter.

“’Yeah, she’s out playing 18 with Arnold right now,’” Nagy added.

“He just would sit there, with his dog, in his golf cart and just watch me hit.”

Moreover, “He taught me some of the most amazing lessons in my life, and he was the one who actually helped me make the decision whether or not I needed to go professional,” Nagy added. “I was a scratch handicap; I could have gone professional out of high school.

“But I always wanted to have a back-up plan. … My plan B was I wanted to go to college, I wanted to have my degree.”

But Nagy’s time on the Plains at Auburn would be limited to one quarter.

In December 1993, her life was about to change thanks to a head-on vehicular accident. “It was at the intersection of Shug Jordan Parkway, right outside the football stadium [Jordan-Hare Stadium],” she said.

“A car came barreling through the intersection, ran the red-light, and we hit head-on — an 80-mph collision. No skid-marks.”

In the first few minutes after it happened, “I don’t know if it was the adrenaline that was going on, I didn’t feel any of the pain. It was about two hours later that I lost the feeling in my lower legs,” she said.

Paralyzed from the waist down for what turned out to be “about 11 months,” Nagy said. “I cracked the third and fourth vertebra in my lower back. I had internal bleeding from the seatbelt. It broke the steering wheel.”

While having to re-learn how to walk, “The doctors told me I would never play competitive golf again,” Nagy said. “… They said I’d be lucky to have children.”

However, “I’m stubborn like that,” Nagy added about wanting to prove the doctors wrong.

Transferring to Rollins College, an NCAA Division II school in Winter Park, Florida, just north of Orlando in 1995, Nagy proved her doctors wrong on both fronts:

She eventually earned Honorable Mention All-American honors as a Rollins golfer while giving birth to two children.

“It took about a month there at Auburn before they would allow me to transfer back to Orlando, where they had a spinal cord injury facility that could work with me,” she said. “I went to physical therapy six days a week.”

As for inspiration, “I had a fantastic role model, which was my mother. … She’s a cancer survivor; she’s survived bone, breast, cervical and uterine cancer,” the golfing star added about Peggy Sue Cypherd, a resident of Fox Den subdivision for about one year along with Kathy’s father.

“She’s a fighter. I’ve always been a fighter.”

As for Palmer and the other PGA stars, “They were there to help me pick up the pieces,” Nagy said.

“I also had to have faith that the Man upstairs had a plan for me. I have a very strong belief in God,” she added. “He has looked out for me my whole life.”

However, “There were times you hit a wall. There’s some dark days,” Nagy said. “… You keep saying, ‘yes, I can do it,’ but you have to dig deep.”

Moreover, “When I initially got back into it, I would go and hit a bag of balls and be in bed for a week because I’d be so sore,” she said. “That was a year after the accident.”

Compared to her short time at Auburn, “I was better at Rollins,” Nagy said about her game starting to jell in the spring of 1996, the first of her three years on that team.

At Rollins, Nagy also switched her major from communications to elementary education. “When I switched, and the first time I got in front of a group of children, my whole life changed,” Nagy said. “That was going into my junior year at Rollins.”

Nagy is entering her second school year as a substitute teacher with Knox County Schools, mostly filling in at primary and intermediate schools.

A stay-at-home mother until last year, Nagy has been a Farragut resident about six years after the work of her husband, Philip Nagy, brought the couple to the area from Arizona.

The couple’s two children are Thomas, 11, a seventh-grader at Farragut Middle School, and Alexis, 6, a first-grader at Farragut Primary School.