The Challenged Tour: Breaking 90 - with one arm

By Al TaysFebruary 27, 2013, 1:00 pm

There are lots of amazing golfers on display this week at PGA National in the Honda Classic – no doubt you've heard of most of them.

There will be lots of amazing golfers on display in August at PGA National in the North American One-Armed Golfer Association Championship – odds are you haven't heard of any of them.

John Barton will get a close-up view of both groups, as head of the Honda's transportation committee and as a founding member of the NAOAGA.

I met Barton (pictured at left, above) at a recent book signing for "Broken Tees and Mended Hearts" by Judy Alvarez, a South Florida pro who works with golfers who have disabilities. Barton is one of the golfers featured in the book and, like all the others, his is an inspiring story.

Barton, 60, was an electrical contractor. On Dec. 22, 1989, he was working on a line atop a 40-foot pole when he fell into a live power line and was electrocuted.

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A surge of 7,460 volts entered his body under his left arm, he told the audience at Willoughby Golf Club in Stuart, Fla. "It lit me up, set me on fire. I woke up about 4 1/2 months later in the burn unit at Jackson Memorial (Hospital) in Miami."

Barton was told he would likely never be able to speak or walk again. Neither pronouncement proved accurate, but his left arm and shoulder had to be amputated, one of 109 surgeries he would undergo after the accident.

During his rehabilitation a therapist, seeing him watching a golf tournament on TV, encouraged him to try to take up the game again.

"My left hip was totally fused, both knees were totally fused, I had very little range of motion at all," he said. "I wasn't walking – I was confined to a chair.

"I looked at that woman like she was totally crazy," thinking "Yeah, right, I'll play golf."

After getting out of the burn unit at Jackson Memorial, Barton went to stay with his sister in Georgia. He often fought depression, and another therapist told him he had to get up out of bed and do something. A neighbor had given him "an old pitching niblick," and from his wheelchair he started hitting pitch shots in his sister's backyard.

When he thought he was ready to return to the golf course, he rented a set of clubs and shot 68 for nine holes. Though he was physically exhausted, "I thought to myself, 'I can do this,' '' he said. He bought a set of golf clubs, joined a club and began playing 27 to 54 holes a day. He eventually got his scores down into the 80s, with a low round of 83. "It was my rehab," he said, "and it's brought me from the chair to walking."

Barton began playing in tournaments put on by the National Amputee Golf Association, and later, feeling it didn't make sense to have golfers with amputated arms compete against golfers with amputated legs, helped found the North American One-Armed Golfer Association.

Which brings us to Joe Hartley. His low round was an 84, but that was when he had both arms. Hartley, 44, lost the left one as a result of a Scud missile attack in Saudi Arabia while serving with the Army during Operation Desert Storm. He also suffered damage to his right arm and hand, and is unable to pronate or supinate his wrist or forearm or fully extend his elbow. That didn't stop him from playing golf again, however.

Hartley, a resident of Monterey, Calif., came to our attention at Golf Channel when he sent a video of himself to SwingFix and asked for advice to help him break 90. He has come tantalizingly close, with a best round of 91, but typically shoots in the mid to high 90s.

Like Barton, Hartley (pictured at right, above) began in golf by hitting wedge shots in a large yard, battled depression after the loss of his limb and taught himself to hit drives well over 200 yards and break 100 while playing one-handed.

Hartley sounds like so many other golfers when he talks about the game's attraction:

"It's a sport that you can be having just a terrible day, and the last shot of the day, you hit it just perfect, and it'll make you want to come back."

Barton's advice to Hartley? "You have to find your own swing, then become consistent with it."

And one more thing: "Practice, practice, practice."

Good advice for any golfer.

For more information: North American One-Armed Golfer Association, National Amputee Golf Association

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x