Adaptive golf guides veterans through game

  • Adaptive Golf Program participant Chris Marshall receives advice on how to improve his swing from golf enthusiast and program volunteer Ken Taylor.
    Adaptive Golf Program participant Chris Marshall receives advice on how to improve his swing from golf enthusiast and program volunteer Ken Taylor.
Body

It’s been said that golf is the game of life.
It’s a sport that teaches lessons in self-awareness, camaraderie and overcoming failure.
But, for many, those lessons seem out of reach. Whether they feel sidelined due to physical impairments or the high price associated with the sport, many have missed out on the lessons that can be gleaned from participating.
That’s where the Georgia State Golf Association (GSGA) hopes to make a difference.
This past Wednesday the GSGA in conjunction with the  Adaptive Golf Association brought the first Adaptive Golf Program to the links at Achasta.
This complimentary all-inclusive community golf program aims to help anyone find the best techniques and resources to play and enjoy golf. The program focuses on individuals with mobility and cognitive challenges.
Open to all ages, from youth to adult, the program provides specialized equipment that gives people with disabilities control of their swing.
The mission of the program is to empower individuals with physical, cognitive or sensory impairments to enhance one’s life through the game of golf.

‘ABSOLUTELY
WORTH IT’

With Dahlonega being the home to active military and veterans, the first Adaptive Golf Program day at Achasta was aimed at giving disabled veterans a chance to enjoy the game of golf.
For local volunteer Ken Taylor, the program is a way to give back to the game that he has loved for his entire life.
“I am an above knee amputee,” said the Dahlonega resident. “I started with this program about two years ago and it has created tremendous want in my heart to give the game to anybody who wants to listen. I know a lot about it. It’s a great game. So, we’re going to grow this program and introduce the game of golf to as many people as we can.”
Taylor believes that golf can help veterans and people with disabilities deal with the challenges in their lives.
“How are you going to approach this game?” Taylor asked. “It’s the same way that you approach life.”
The session was split into three stations: driving, chipping and putting. Participants were paired with golf pros and golf enthusiasts who gave lessons in each skill.
Chris Marshall, who participated at the event, highly recommended the program to anyone interested in free instruction.
“I heard about it at work,” said Marshall. “One of the guys with the program got in contact with someone at the [Ranger] Camp and someone asked me if I wanted to get golf lessons from a pro. I am terrible at golf, so I was in. I’ve played for a few years, but never consistently enough to get good. I would tell anyone to absolutely come. Just five minutes of instruction got my swing significantly better, so it’s absolutely worth it.”

FORMING NEW BONDS

With many of the participants dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), program director Bob Thibodeau said he hopes that the program will not only offer those participants a chance to experience golf, but also give them a chance to get out of the house and form the kind of camaraderie that they once enjoyed while serving in the military.
“I came back from Vietnam with PTSD,” said Thibodeau. “Often I hear spouses of those afflicted with PTSD telling their husbands and wives to try to get out of the house and meet people. Golf is restorative and rehabilitative for veterans and I know that from my own experiences. You go out and play and meet new people. The game helps you form new bonds because you like the people you play with. It’s the game for a lifetime.”
Thibodeau believes that Achasta was the perfect spot for the program based on demand and the willingness of Achasta to take part in the program.
“I heard from my friend Ken Taylor that there was a demand for the program here,” he said. “And I knew in my head that it would be in demand for people who didn’t have access to the game. Ken facilitated what we are doing here and Achasta agreed to what we want to do which is to allow veterans and other people with disabilities access to the game of golf.”
Achasta head pro Patrick Higgins was excited about the program coming to the course.
“We talked about it and I thought this is absolutely fantastic and would love to do this,” said Higgins. “Achasta is a place where I feel like we can all get together. Golf has done so much for me growing up. Golf has helped me overcome a lot of things.”
The Adaptive Golf Program is free to participants and can supply equipment for those who may not own clubs or who need assistance from special equipment.
If you would like to assist in developing the Adaptive Golf Program at Achasta, please email dwindsor@gsga.org or call (678) 961-GSGA (4742). The program relies on an all-volunteer staff and those involved are always appreciative of those looking to contribute their time to the program’s mission.
The program is also currently seeking sponsors for the events to help with the costs of the program and to help grow the program in the future.
The next Adaptive Golf Program day at Achasta will take place on Wednesday, March 18. Future sessions of the program will take place every third Wednesday of the month between noon and 2 p.m.