Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Four Paragolfers Make Golfing in the Boston Area More Accessible

Paragolfers in use at Leo J.Martin Memorial Golf Course.
Today was a brisk fall day at the end of the golfing season but that didn't stop 10 golfers with disabilities from playing at Leo J. Martin Memorial Golf Course in Weston, Massachusetts.

Golf professional and adaptive instructor from Spaulding Adaptive Sports Center Rick Johnson was in his element coaching his Back Into The Swing program on its final outing of the season.

I found the golfers bundled up against the breeze playing in three distinct groups. Three of the golfers were using Paragolfers to play - an all terrain wheelchair that assists the user into a standing position to swing. The other golfers were making use of conventional golf carts to traverse the long course and had a variety of disabilities.

Jerry Donovan and Jeff Whelpley stand up to play.
"I've been able to play golf twice a week thanks to these machines! It's awesome! It's been a Godsend!!" exclaimed Jeff Whelpley. "This is the best thing that has happened to me since my accident!"

Jeff is a tall man who volunteered at Loon Mountain's adaptive downhill ski program for four years - "one of the best things I'd done in my life." The day of his accident he informed me, he was supposed to go golfing, but switched to motocross racing instead and ended up "wrapped around a tree". Like many adaptive golfers, he was a serious golfer prior to his accident.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation purchased four Paragolfers this year for the two golf courses managed by the state agency. This innovative vehicle has transformed the lives of those who have discovered it. Two are kept at Leo J. Martin and the other two reside at Ponkapoag Golf Course in Canton. Now golfers with spinal cord injuries or who otherwise cannot walk or stand, can play golf in the greater Boston area.

Rick Johnson applauds excellent progress.
"Two Paragolfers at each course is a gift from above," said Rick Johnson. "I'm sure this hasn't happened anywhere else. Now these guys are playing twice a week and organizing a tournament on November 8th."

One of the other guys, Steve Kuketz, achieved a hole-in-one this summer on this course using the Paragolfer. He told me today his next hole-in-one is not long off.

Steve and Jeff are the main organizers for the 2016 New England Regional Championship, an event hosted by the newly formed Massachusetts Para-Golfers Association (MPGA), The event starts at 11 am on Tuesday, November 8 and costs $25. Over 20 people are already signed up. For further information, contact 508-889-7581 or 781-217-8170. "Anyone with a disability is welcome and can play", said Steve.

For more information on the Back Into The Swing Program, contact Spaulding Adaptive Sports Center at 877-976-7272. They offer indoor instruction over the winter while dreaming of spring.

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