You may remember reading the story of the young man who became one of the regular participants in the golf program at Ranken Jordan after initially thinking golf was "stupid." Many of us who play regularly have shared that sentiment at times, yet we all wind up returning to play again. You will recall that after he picked up a putter and sank everything he looked at that we had a new, addicted golfer. The therapists often told me that he would ask them to get the clubs out during the week so he could practice in between the clinics. I wish all of my students would have that passion! Why did he fall in love with golf so quickly? As he would say shortly before he was discharged from Ranken Jordan, "golf helped me do things I didn't think I could do. It was a time when I could do something to turn a bad day into a good day." I would later find out just how accurate the latter part of his statement was. At times the therapists would use golf as his reward for completing all of his daily therapy. Sometime this summer you will read a lengthy post about him after we go play golf following his graduation from high school . . . a request he made not long ago and I couldn't say "yes" to fast enough!
Then there is the story of the young girl who has been a constant in our clinics. Depending on where she is with her rehabilitation and therapy, we never know if she will arrive in a wheelchair or on a gurney laying on her stomach and propped up on her elbows. What we do know is that however she gets there, she will arrive with a huge smile on her face and will be looking forward to playing golf. Her physical limitations do not allow her to hit the ball very far or to play for very long. But that doesn't put a damper on her determination. She'll do what she can, take a break, and then come back for more! Golf may or may not have had a direct effect on her physical therapy. What is has had is a direct effect on her attitude and mental state allowing for her to spend more time with her therapists when she may otherwise have chosen not to.
|Mikey T. aiming for the range picker!|
I could go on and on with stories from the kids we have worked with at Ranken Jordan. Rather than do that I would prefer to tell you some success stories from around the country. Recently I learned the story of a young man named Zakki Blatt. I had the pleasure and honor of learning his story during a phone call from his mother, Stephanie. She learned of the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan through this blog and was compelled to reach out to me. Zakki and Stephanie are both incredibly inspirational people. My words certainly would not do their story justice so I ask that you click this link (Zakki's Story) to read the article in the April 2013 Golf Digest and get the story in Zakki's words. I know the story and have read and re-read the article many times. However each time I read it I am blown away by what golf has done for Zakki and what he is doing for golfers around the world (he also would like to see a junior golf program in a pediatric hospital in each of the 41 PGA Sections).
|Zakki receiving the 2012 RBS Achiever of the Year award from Jack Nicklaus|
Over the last several weeks I have been fortunate to have conversations with other professionals around the country who are doing great things with golf programs for disabled players. Judy Alvarez, a PGA and LPGA Professional in southern Florida has been teaching disabled golfers for over 20 years. I strongly encourage you to read her book, Broken Tees and Mended Hearts, which you can easily purchase on her website: http://www.judyalvarez.com/. Jim Estes, a PGA Professional in Maryland, established the Salute Military Golf Association (SMGA) and provides instruction for our wounded warriors. You may learn about the SMGA here: http://www.smga.org/index.html. While not golf professionals, Jim Fitzgerald and Jim Murphy have worked passionately to build the Sports Are For Everyone (SAFE) organization into a tremendously successful program. They cover all sports but have seen great success with their golf program that "Murph" is dedicated to. Please visit their website here: http://www.sportsareforeveryone.org/.
What you will see from visiting the various sites I have links to within this post is a common theme that golf is improving the lives of those involved in these programs. It is entirely likely that many of the participants may not continue to play golf for the long term. But what is likely is that they will receive physical, emotional, and social benefits that come from being involved with a sport and interacting with their peers. I again encourage you to find a way you can help one (or more) of these programs. The stories I tell about the kids at Ranken Jordan, Zakki's story, and those contained on the various websites, illustrate how much of an impact this game has on the lives of those who pick up a golf club. As always, I am available to guide you to a group, answer any questions, or provide assistance to anyone who would want to start a similar program on their own.