Over the past several weeks I have been fortunate to have conversations with several people in regards to teaching physically disabled golfers. Some of the people have sought me out while others I have sought out to try and expand my knowledge. There have been fellow PGA Professionals, physical therapists, and parents of children with special needs. Through all of the conversations there is ample discussion about the instruction aspect of working with a golfer who has physical issues. But what I have found to be the most compelling aspect of the conversations is that none of them focused on the instruction.
Any time you are dealing with a golf instruction program the general thought is the focus should be on the actual instruction. In most cases this is correct thinking. If you are not receiving proper instruction that will make you a better player then why are you working with that teacher, right? Since the first day I started the program at Ranken Jordan I have held tight to one contention: Any Golf Professional who is a decent teacher of the game can teach any type of player how to play this game. The physics behind getting the ball airborne doesn't change just because a player is standing, sitting in a wheelchair, only has one arm, or has balance issues. I have been told that I have had to adapt my teaching to work with the kids who have such a wide variety of physical and/or mental disabilities. But what I do on a daily basis in my teaching, and what any good golf instructor does also, is adapt my teaching to each and every student I work with. Everybody swings the club differently so we are constantly adapting our teaching to fit every student who comes to us to improve.
So if the the instruction component of this type of junior golf program is not the focal point of the conversations then what is? Acceptance. Inclusion. Opening one's mind. These are the things that have been discussed as being the most important aspects of the type of program we have at Ranken Jordan. At times the instruction is the least important part of running a successful junior golf program which includes children with physical limitations. In many instances golf is simply the vehicle to show these kids that they can participate, interact, and compete with other kids. Golf has a way of leveling the playing field like no other sport. By introducing these kids to golf we are giving them a tool that can help them heal quicker, improve their quality of life, and teach them the game of a lifetime. Cynics will say that golf itself can't heal a child's body. Zakki Blatt and his mother Stephanie would both be the first people to jump up and disagree with you. Read how Zakki says "golf saved my life" by clicking HERE and watch his video that aired during U.S. Open coverage on the Golf Channel by clicking HERE.