What does a round of golf mean to you? How much effort does it take for you to pick up your clubs and go out to play a round of golf?
I bet you don’t think much about it, do you? Today’s article is going to inspire you. It is written by Patrick Scott who is currently rehabilitating at Haggin Oaks with the Morton Golf Foundation after a bike accident on the American River Bike Trail changed his life forever.
I recently completed nine holes of golf at Haggin Oaks, and I am tired. Many people reading this story will think that nine holes may not sound like much. Before August 11, 2011 I suspect, I too would sneer at the idea that a mere nine holes was fatiguing. Before that day, my 64-year-old body would walk 18 holes before my usual 30 mile bike ride. Then, while on an easy bicycle ride with friends that Sunday in 2011, my front wheel inexplicably stopped and I flipped over my handlebars. Within the breath of a heartbeat my triathlete’s body was broken.
Without knowing why, for 10 foggy seconds, I found myself on the road and could not move my legs or arms. I remember thinking that this was merely another small bump in my history of athletic bumps. The next thing I remembered, a couple of weeks later, was learning I was a C5-6 quadriplegic and that my entire life changed. I was paralyzed from my chest down to my feet. Not only were my arms, hands and legs frozen, I could hardly breathe. For the next month, at least, I thought I was in a nightmare that would end, and I would wake up. When I finally awoke was the day I realized my nightmare was real. Suffering the death of the life you used to know apparently has the same stages of mourning as mourning the death of another. Reluctantly, I moved through each of them.
For the next three months in Denver’s Craig Rehabilitation Hospital I tried to relearn how to live as a quadriplegic. I hated my life. I suffered through numerous infections and a loss of about 35 pounds of muscle mass. In addition, hope of recovering any athletic prowess was gone. Despite feeling as if living in a dark cold smooth walled hole, I forced myself to attend every Craig rehabilitation class. They designed a busy daily schedule. Although encouraged by Craig’s staff to do as much as possible, I wanted to die. But my athlete training refused to quit; especially on myself.
As an athlete I knew that goals were absolutely necessary to motive my body and mind to work harder; to improve. During the first year, I promised my children I would run the first leg in Eppie’s Great Race. In July of 2012 with help from my children and several friends I completed the 5.8 mile run, my daughter rode the bicycle leg and my son completed the kayak trip. I was happy with the accomplishment but once the goal was reached, my exercise motivation evaporated. It was then, that I was informed that Haggin Oaks Golf Course had handicapped golf carts. Golf, after I retired from my law practice in 2007, was a passion. I called Haggin Oaks and spoke with people dedicated to working with disabled golfers.
They encouraged me to try golfing from one of their “handicap” golf carts. During my first visit to Haggin Oaks, I met Tom Morton. He introduced me to the generosity of the Morton Golf Foundation. Unfortunately, my first attempt to hit a ball while seated on their cart was disappointing. The cart I used was designed for people who had some leg strength and mine had none. So I tried hitting a ball while sitting and swinging across my knees. It was futile and frustrating. In addition, because I had no handgrip and my shoulders were still injured my range of motion was significantly limited. Tom Morton, however, did not quit on me. He informed me that I could hit a golf ball from a standing position. His foundation acquired, and was waiting for delivery of, a new and different golf cart.
Tom informed me that Morton Golf Foundation was obtaining a golf cart designed for people like me; disabled people who could not stand. A few weeks later, Haggin’s team invited to attend the inauguration of their Stand Up and Play golf cart; paramobile cart. This brilliantly designed cart was displayed by Anthony Netto, also a quadriplegic and one of its creators. This cart was driven like a power chair with a joystick. It was designed to be stable on the flat, over curbs, into and out of a sand trap and sideways on a hill. It was designed not to flip over and to be safe and usable for people who lack leg strength or mobility and wanted to play sports from a standing position. With a button press the seat raised its occupant to a standing position. The golf ball, therefore, was struck from a standing position and not across the player’s knees. It meant, as a quadriplegic, I might hit a golf ball “normally”; whatever normal looks like. I also met Joe Lukawski, the coach for the Morton Golf Foundation stroke golfers. We arranged lessons.
I was the first quadraplegic taught at Haggin and I had several special needs to play. Because my hands won’t maintain a grip on the club, I began experimenting with velcro grips and gloves. I ordered grips and gloves from Quantum Grips and Morton Golf Foundation attached them to my clubs without charge; the grips worked. After actually connecting with some chips and sinking some putts, I was re-invigorated. I felt motivated to increase the frequency and level of my exercise program. I re-dedicated myself to strengthening my core for standing and to improve my hand grip and upper body rotation. Before starting this Haggin Oaks program, the possibility of playing nine holes again seemed nonexistent. Joe was (and is) a good coach and good inspiration. With each lesson my stroke and endurance improved; as did my motivation. In the last two years, I’ve learned that improvement comes in baby steps. I’ve taken many baby steps. Therefore, recently, after practicing with Joe for an hour, I was also able to play nine holes with a golf buddy from before my accident. We had a great time.
The people at Haggin Oaks, the cart barn workers, coaches and their course marshals have treated me with respect and their assistance when needed. They all reflect the generous philosophy of Tom Morton with regards to assisting people with disabilities to live a more normal life. We are encouraged to grow stronger in this outdoor environment. Because Tom and his staff work toward improving our lives, his foundation intends to purchase additional stand up and play carts so that people like me can compete on our feet and feel more complete.
The Morton Golf Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit corporation established and operated exclusively for charitable purposes. The Morton Golf Foundation vision is to enrich the lives of the less fortunate through the great game of golf. For more information on the Morton Golf Foundation, or to donate your time or money, please contact Jane Siebers at 916-808-0969 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.