First Swing teaches golf to people with disabilities

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
First Swing Seminar and Learn to Golf Clinic held at Penn Oaks Golf Club taught golf to people with disabilities and amputations. (Candice Monhollan)

First Swing Seminar and Learn to Golf Clinic held at Penn Oaks Golf Club taught golf to people with disabilities and amputations. (Candice Monhollan)

THORNBURY — It may have been a hot day with temperatures soaring above 90 degrees, but that didn’t keep people off the driving range as the National Amputee Golf Association held its First Swing Seminar and Learn to Golf Clinic Friday.

The event, held at the Penn Oaks Golf Club, is for people with disabilities, therapists and golf professionals.

“The idea came about when I met some friends at Good Shepherd Hospital in Allentown,” said Bob Buck, executive director of the Eastern Amputee Golf Association. “They said, ‘Hey Bob, do you do golf clinics for people with disabilities?’ I checked with the boss and he said no we didn’t, but why not try? We did a clinic there and we had 45 people from the disabled community come out. That got us started and that was 30 years ago.”

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Since then, The Eastern Amputee Golf Association (EAGA) has held between 16 to 22 clinics a year throughout the east coast.

“We try to do clinics wherever somebody has an interest in doing them (and) wherever there is a place that will allow us to come and hit golf balls,” Buck said.

The clinics, though hosted by an amputee association, is also open to anyone with a physical disability.

At Penn Oaks on Friday, there were numerous amputees, but joining them was a person who suffered a traumatic brain injury and someone recovering from a stroke who couldn’t stand at all a year before.

“I find people are surprised that they’re able to play the game again or to try it as something new,” Buck said. “It may be one of the few things they can do that gets them outside and being active due to the type of disability they may have. As far as I know, everybody with a disability can play.”

Helping to teach during the day are golf professionals, physical therapists and sometimes family members.

For the golf pros, for an hour beforehand, they go through a bit of training on how to approach golf with a person with an amputation or disability.

“These guys can teach anybody, but it’s just being comfortable and being able to ask questions to someone with a disability,” Buck said. “If they’re here, there’s a reason they’re here — they want to find out if they can do this. So ask the questions and feel comfortable with teaching them. It’s nice to have them here.”

Helping to get people out to the First Swing Seminar are therapists at physical therapy centers, hospitals, rehab centers and prosthetic centers.

“The big thing is having people like Action Potential Physical Therapy, Bryn Mawr Hospital, MossRehab — all those kind of guys helping their clients have a great life and do things,” Bucks said. “Where we can help, we’re happy to do that. We love the game of golf. It keeps everybody active and give a chance to be outside, which is great.”

And sometimes all it takes is a little prod from a family member.

“There are many times a spouse will bring her husband and he says he’ll just watch,” Buck said. “By the end of the day, we have him up and hitting and the wife usually doesn’t believe what’s happening. They feel great because the belief was ‘I can’t stand and swing a golf club without falling down and hurting myself.’ There are ways of doing it and we can give them help to be able to do that. It’s all about the ability to keep going and not give up.”

Not everyone who attends has to know golf either.

It’s an event for people of all levels, whether they played before or not.

“Maybe 60 percent have played before, but for others, it’s just a new game to try and something they never thought about,” Buck said. “You find among the younger people who have had accidents who could have been jocks playing baseball or wrestling, this is a game they can now pursue. You have to get rid of the bulk idea because you have to be strong to play this game. You need to be supple and swing. It’s a different thing.”

For Buck, it’s something he enjoys being a part of and helping to get people back outside.

“I’ve had 30 years of it and it has been so rewarding just to watch people surprise themselves,” he said. “That means that you can surprise yourself and say, ‘Wait a minute, if I can do this, what else can I do?’ Maybe ballroom dancing or whatever it might be. It has been fun.”

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Categories: Community, Golf, Health, Sports

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