Nothing handicaps these pros

Adaptive golfers demonstrate skills

Brad Clayton can no longer drive a golf ball 300 yards since losing his right hand. Still, he works at his game as seriously as any competitor.


"I don't like to call them disabilities. I just like to look at it as a challenge," said Clayton, a PGA master teaching professional from North Carolina, "because it was fun for me, when I lost my hand, to find a way to actually make it work."

Don Vickery grew up playing baseball, basketball and football, but lost both legs in an explosion as an adult. He had never played golf a day in his life.

"It a great rehabilitation sport for amputees," said Vickery, now the first double amputee to become a PGA professional. "You don't have to run, you don't have to jump. It's a sport of stability and balance."

Clayton and Vickery talked adaptive sports and showed off their swings Monday at the Walton Foundation for Independence's annual Adaptive Golf Demonstration, held at The First Tee of Augusta. The foundation supports return to work, accessible housing and sports and leisure programs for people with disabilities.

"We want people to know you can play sports after a disability and you can do it well," said Vicki Green, spokeswoman for Walton Foundation.

Seeing Clayton and Vickery thwack dozens of drives 200 yards up the green made her point.

Balance, stability and hitting the ball square are what make a good golf swing, Clayton said between drives. That's not so hard wearing his arm-prosthesis.

But golf works even with a more severe handicap, Clayton said. He repeated the drives standing on one leg, then the other, then kneeling, then one-handed and then, flipping the club and hitting the ball with the head upside-down.

"It's an individual sport that you can adapt. You can go up to 100 yards from the green and play," he said. "You can enjoy the game by just moving the ball down the fairway."

Vickery said after his accident he was reluctant to learn golf at first, because he wasn't sure he'd be welcome on courses. But once he experienced it, he realized golf was fun.

Disabled people also worry about looking funny, he said. But there's a point where that fear goes away.

"You have to learn to accept what it is," Vickery said. "If you can accept a thing, you can get over a thing."