More than 600 wheelchair athletes had an opportunity this past weekend to learn more about adaptive golf during a demonstration at the 33rd annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
The Adaptive Golf Association held a session during the opening of the NVWG on Saturday, July 13, 2013, that featured full-swing, short game and putting stations that wheelchair athletes could test to learn more about the various equipment and techniques for playing adaptive golf.
The exhibit also featured several disabled veterans, an amputee and two Purple Heart recipients who volunteered as mentors to the wheelchair athletes, said David Windsor, a PGA professional and director of instruction for AGA. “Veterans helping veterans makes a winning team,” Windsor said. “That’s been our motto right from the get-go.”
The association has been working with companies like PING to develop an improved golf bag for individuals with disabilities. Some of the latest equipment – such as golf clubs that feature adapted bending angles for wheelchair golfers – were available for Games athletes to test. The association also highlighted the new SoloRider, a wheelchair-accessible golf cart, Windsor said.
The association, which was founded in 1996, conducts thousands of clinics and workshops across the country to provide individuals with disabilities with information, resources and expertise on adaptive golf.
The association in 2007 teamed up with the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital’s adaptive sports program and the Terrace Hill Golf Club in Tampa to begin an “Every Friday” weekly adaptive golf program that is free to disabled veterans. The group conducts similar weekly and monthly clinics in other U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Sarasota, FL, and Roanoke, VA, Windsor said.
“Everybody’s ready to pick up the clubs because somewhere deep down, they know that wheelchair basketball, volleyball or tennis at some point could become a bit rigorous, and they’re going to still need something to stay competitive,” Windsor said. “Whether or not they jump into it 100 percent, many find that golf is their backup plan.”
Windsor said the association’s efforts also have helped in making PGA tour superstores more accessible to individuals with disabilities, with many stores now offering equipment and simulators specifically for wheelchair golfers.
Windsor emphasized that adaptive golf programs are not limited to the 13 select cities where the Adaptive Golf Association currently features demonstrations. Individuals with disabilities in other cities can contact the association, which will then work with their local PGA experts to help develop an adaptive golf program, he said.
“We want to get more people physically and socially active in the community,” Windsor said. “We do the education, and we want people to know that we’re not just another story; we want to help make them the story.”
Learn more about the National Veterans Wheelchair Games
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.