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Dec 15

Golf Prosthetics

Give me Something to Swing:Golf Prosthetics

I remember specific childhood days when my eyes became a little more open to the world than they had been the day before. I remember standing on the putting green at Neskowin Beach, watching a one-armed golfer split the fairway with a viciously potent drive. I remember joining his group, and wondering why he outputted me so easily. My capacity for underestimating the skill of the human body was unparalleled in those days, and my ability to gauge the human spirit was even more appalling.

I know that there were heroes and adventurers in those days, but we were a public that was slow on the up-take, and underestimation was an almost universal shortcoming. It was too easy to look and judge – “well, he or she can’t do that. It just isn’t logical.” Well, the body has a lot of tricks up its sleeve, and the mind even more.


Alan Hines, for example, had never played golf before losing his arm from shock while working for a power company. As a participant in the University of South Florida program for sports-specific prosthetics, primarily golf and baseball for the moment, he’s feeling pretty good about his game, and about the Eagle TD, which offers him a firm grip and a wrist rotation.

And there’s the brick wall for all that underestimation. The gist of it all seems to be that if a player can stand in a well-balanced way and be afforded a swing arc without barriers, he or she can compete with you, maybe beat you, prosthetic or not. My one-armed companion certainly took me to the cleaners. I know it’s true.

Edwin Watts Golf

I have never experienced the loss of a limb, and can only speculate at its impact on one living a full life. I would ask if it is an extremely specific type of self-loss or self-diminishing. Tim Lang, a United States Marine, could probably tell me. Losing a leg, shattered then amputated, from a roadside bomb in his Humvee, Lang claims that the game of golf helped him endure some of his darkest days. Describing one of the worst aspects, he said that “when you lose a limb and your hospital-bound and unable to care for yourself, you lose your self-confidence.” Is that all – self-confidence? Yes, that thing that helps us get up in the morning, speak openly and face dangers, that self-confidence.

Tim Lang was spotted playing a round in Ireland, in a downpour, which seemed to match his ferocity to compete again. Not  a man to be coddled or irrelevant, he hid his prosthetic leg at first, and began to unveil it only after his handicap dropped to 5, and he was staying with and beating uninjured people – barely a year later.

A highly resolved mind can win at almost anything, and there’s a national tournament for people who feel just that way. In early August of 2012, the National Amputee Golf Championship was held in Indianapolis, at the prestigious Brickyard Crossing course.  This included holes within the famous Speedway. It was the 64th, hosted by SRT, a sports prosthetic corporation. They’ve also hosted the 23rd Senior Championship and the first International Cup. The company’s sports staff has reached thirty, including Kim Moore, SRT’s resident PGA professional. It’s a perfect time, too, considering the advanced understanding we have developed in a scientific approach to sport.

Since those days at Neskowin Beach, I’ve been wised up by a lot of other examples. Can’t do it? I just don’t go there anymore. For all our faults, we are magnificently resourceful, and wonderfully pig-headed when we set our minds to something. Keep an eye out for the continued growth of this industry, and its greatest players.

 

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.