Accessible and Adaptable Golfby Scott Millman on 11/20/17
Impressive, Humbling, Awe, Pride, and Humility
What do all of these have in common? They are all words to describe what I saw and/or felt for the two days while getting my Accessible Golf Certificate. When I arrived in the meeting room, I was greeted by the staff and a few of the other participants. One in particular stood out – Sgt. Charles Eggleston, an outspoken friendly man that tells it like it is, opinionated; but has a heart of gold. What's special is what I found out later. He is a 4 time Purple Heart recipient, up for the Congressional Medal of Honor, and survived a deadly attack in Mosul where 6 soldiers died. He was also pronounced dead only to survive the attack. His back is mainly comprised of titanium and he has undergone numerous surgeries and still has a way to go in rehab. You should see him hit a golf ball.
Once everyone arrived we did the usual introductions and then got into the program. Day one and the first part of day two was mostly technical - learning how different injuries affect the body, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and what inclusive really means. We covered a lot of ground quickly and there was a lot of information sharing. The class was comprised of mostly golf professionals and one or two therapists. Dana Dempsey (one of the therapists) was very knowledgeable, asked fantastic questions, and really added to the experience. We even got a chance to go out and play a few holes on Tuesday.
Tuesday morning really got moving as former PGA pro Jim Estes took over the class. With a degree in Bio-Mechanics and a great understanding of the golf swing we really got an education on teaching all types of golfers but the focus was on disabled students. The afternoon was an eye-opener as we watched several people with various disabilities hit golf balls and it really helped us understand new and different ways to teach this great game. I was very fortunate to spend some valuable one-on-one time with Tom Houston, who I think with the right number of strokes would kick my butt on a golf course. Tom plays from an adjustable chair he designed and has a beautiful golf swing. Chris lost his left leg and still hits his 5 iron 200 yards. Jerry had his first experience hitting balls from Tom’s chair and I have never met anyone so excited about improving his game. Charles took a number of tips from several of the instructors and has great power when he connects. The highlight for me was hitting balls blind, deaf, and with my dominate arm bandaged up. Taking instruction from my peers really gave me a different perspective.
To sum it all up, I had a great two days and I want to personally thank the staff: Gary Robb, Patti Kleban, Tammy Smith, LPGA/PGA professional Judy Alvarez, and PGA professional Jim Estes. Without their hard work and experience this would not have been possible.
The next time you encounter a person with a disability remember they are just that: a person first. Treat them like you would treat anyone else.