BY GABE LICHT
DELANO AND WATERTOWN, MN If you’ve ever been to Delano Market Legion Days, you’ve probably met Brett Hansen Begg, of Brett’s Designs. While he is known there for the greeting cards he designs and his salesmanship in selling him, that is just part of his story.
Alan and Greta Hansen Begg, of Watertown, adopted Brett when he was 12.
Before the adoption was even finalized, Alan introduced Brett to the sport of disc golf.
“I started disc golf at 11 when I went through the long process of a year of being adopted,” Brett said. “I picked it up really fast. I was throwing 450 feet by 14.”
Brett’s longest throw ever was closer to 550 feet.
That was one of the many things that changed in an instant in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2008, when Brett was 16 and involved in a serious crash that killed his friend, Luke Schultz.
Greta recalled the events leading up to that fateful moment in a documentary titled “Bet on Brett.”
“Luke, Brett, and I played disc golf in the afternoon . . . then we went bowling in Waconia after that. We spent the whole day together,” Greta said.
Brett, who had received his permit just weeks before, drove that day, and the last thing Greta said to him was, “Your driving was impeccable.”
About three hours later, police were knocking on their door.
“We didn’t know how bad it was,” Alan said. “The cop said, ‘Hurry, but don’t speed.’”
Brett had been transported to the Waconia hospital and then airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center.
“They said they’d do everything to keep him alive,” Alan said. “He wasn’t responsive at all.”
“His brain damage was severe,” Greta said. “It was diffuse axonal brain injury with shearing. The car hit a tree on the passenger side. His head hit the tree, and a lot of brain matter sheared off.”
Brett was in a coma for more than three weeks.
“We did a bunch of research to look for a case of someone coming out of a coma with that kind of brain damage,” Greta said. “We found a case. He came out of a coma after 19 years.”
Knowing that Brett was a fighter, his parents believed he could pull through, too. And he did, one small improvement at a time.
“His eye would open a sliver, and I’d celebrate for a week,” Greta said.
Weekly goals helped the family to keep moving forward. Those weekly goals turned into long-term goals, such as graduating from high school on time.
“Those were the worst three years of my life,” Brett said of his last three years of high school.
It was all worth it when Brett received his diploma.
“I got a standing ovation from the whole crowd at graduation . . . It was a great emotional feeling,” Brett said.
That coming from someone who does not consider himself emotional.
“I played sports all through high school. When I’d get hurt, I’d stand up and shake it off,” Brett said.
That wasn’t an option this time.
“I realized I wouldn’t be on the senior football team, or walk my lady down the aisle at prom, or be on the wrestling team, or be on the track, or be the pitcher on the baseball mound,” Brett said.
Prior to his accident, he had also been playing disc golf at a high level.
In one tournament, he was the youngest competitor in the advanced division, at age 16. He placed 72nd out of 235 people, qualifying for semifinals.
Even with that history, Brett wasn’t sure if he wanted to return to the sport.
“He didn’t like going,” Greta said. “We stopped pushing it, not knowing if he’d be interested in it again.”
“Early on, I wasn’t very good,” Brett said.
But, he stuck with it, and is not only back on the course, but is sponsored by Prodigy Disc. For Brett, excelling at the sport he loves is all in the wrist.
“I have the wrist snap, so I can get it to go 200 feet,” Brett said. “I take a different chair when I go disc golfing. It’s like a tank. I play disc golf a couple times a week. Disc golf comes before anything else.”
With one occasional exception.
“If I have a craft fair where I can make money and get my name out there, I do that over disc golf,” Brett said.
Greta manages Brett’s Designs.
“I call her ‘momager’,” Brett said.
The business has blossomed out of Brett’s rediscovered interest in art.
Before the accident, drawing was a way to pass time at school.
“I would always draw during class because I hated class, since I usually never studied,” Brett said. “It was mostly disc golf-related because I was a huge disc golf fan and I still am.”
Art has become a bigger part of Brett since then. He even has six tattoos that fall into three categories: disc golf, his other hobby of poker, and personal.
He plays poker and disc golf each at least a couple times a week.
Alan and Greta are proud of the progress Brett has made.
“I see him doing something independent of me all the time,” Greta said. “I don’t worry about it. He’s still learning and improving.”
He stays positive, as well.
“He suffered a severe injury, lost his best friend, and his life was altered, and he’s complained about it three times in eight years,” Alan said.
Brett doesn’t dwell on the past, a quality that helps him in disc golf and in life.
“The best disc golfers forget their last shot immediately,” Alan said. “He’s the same way.”