Adaptive golf tournament gives disabled a chance to play

Monday, Oct. 15, 2012 3:54 PM
Last updated 8:42 PM
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Peter Goldberg watches his ball after hitting from the fairway during the Walton Foundation for Independence's adaptive golf tournament.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Peter Goldberg watches his ball after hitting from the fairway during the Walton Foundation for Independence's adaptive golf tournament.

Meg Mirshak
Staff Writer
Twitter: @megmirshak
E-mail | 706-823-3228

Peter Goldberg doesn’t need to play on the PGA Tour. He’s happy anytime he can get a club in his hands and play a course.

The Augustan plays golf from an adaptive cart that rolls him across the grass free of his wheelchair. The cart lifts up and tilts the player – who is buckled into a seat – to a standing position so he can take a one-handed swing.

“Yes, I’d like to be Tiger Woods, but I’m not,” he said. “It’s just fun getting out to play.”

Goldberg has spastic paraplegia, a condition characterized by stiffness in the leg muscles. He has played wheelchair golf for 19 years, and before that, he used a cane and crutches on the course.

An 18-hole adaptive golf tournament at Forest Hills Golf Club was held Monday to benefit the Walton Foun­da­tion for Inde­pen­dence. Each of the 18 disabled players was paired with three able-bodied golfers for a round.

“These adaptive players, you see their abilities and not their disabilities when you see them play like this,” said Alice Salley, an associate development officer for the foundation.

The tournament benefits the foundation’s monthly adaptive golf clinics and Camp to Be Independent, an overnight summer camp for children and young adults with traumatic brain injuries.

Many of the disabled players participate in the foundation’s golf clinics. Some, including John Funches, of Charlotte, N.C., were fairly new to the game. Funches, a Vietnam War veteran, has lost 99 percent of his vision to advanced glaucoma. He can see the ball on the tee by contrasting the color against the grass.

During the tournament, Funches, 61, drove the ball long with a powerful swing. His teammates and wife helped point out the landing spot by referring to landmarks he could make out, such as sand traps and cart paths.

Funches has been receiving therapy at the Charlie Nor­wood VA Medi­cal Cen­ter’s Blind Rehabilitation Cen­ter.

“Any person that suffers from a disability – especially visually impaired – it takes a lot of courage to get out there,” he said. “Whatever a challenge golf is for an able-bodied person, multiply that by 10 times.”

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