NEW PORT RICHEY — Their shots, long and accurate, demonstrated more than golfing prowess. They were a testament to competitive will power.
Players who have overcome amputations to excel at the game they love gathered over the weekend at Seven Springs Country Club for the Southern Amputee Golf Association's championship.
"The main thing is that this is a bunch of friends getting together and playing golf," tournament organizer Mike Hudson said. "The venue is a big part of getting people to come out and Seven Springs is a great place to have this event. It's not a long golf course but it's a tough course that takes some thought to do well on. Even some of our better players have had trouble out here."
Hudson, 63, has taken it upon himself to promote the game of golf within the amputee community. Having gone through his entire life without a right arm, he is uniquely aware of the challenges of this sport.
"It's tough because people suffer from a lack of confidence and think they can't do things," Hudson said. "Back in the '70s, I got started because the national champion lived in Clearwater. When you see people do this and you realize what other people are doing that are the same as you, it encourages you to stop sitting on the couch thinking you can't do things."
The National Amputee Golf Association has been in existence since 1954 and is divided into five regions across the United States.
What started as four amputee World War II veterans playing golf together quickly turned into regional tournament play and has grown into an organization with more than 2,500 members. The golfers participate in several events per year that take place all around the country.
Many amputees at the tournaments see the events as a chance to meet other people that share their situation.
Dan Cox, 55, had to have his leg amputated 16 years ago after suffering from pain caused by a broken leg sustained while playing basketball when he was 18 years old. The leg never healed properly, and as a result, Cox had to have it amputated.
He says he draws inspiration from other golfers at these tournaments.
"The best part of all this is the camaraderie," Cox said. "You're around others that have overcome similar obstacles as you. As an amputee you don't run into a lot of people in your neighborhood that are fellow amputees. You come out here and meet guys that are missing an arm and a leg and it just blows your mind."
In the interest of speed and aiding the golfers, a staff of volunteers from the Seven Springs community watched over the tournament.
"It's very humbling to see these guys," said volunteer Shirley Mobley, 59. "You go out and you can complain about your own golf game but then you see what these guys are going through and it amazes you that they're such good hitters."
David Rice can be reached at [email protected]