Program teaches amputee vets the game of golf

By Associated PressOctober 22, 2009, 7:30 pm

ROCKVILLE, Md. – David Flowers knew his right leg was gone as soon as he stepped on the mine.

“I saw this leg come off,” he said. “It came up and flew over me and splattered me with blood everywhere.”

“And this one,” he added, pointing to his damaged left leg, “one bone was sticking out from the leg that way and one the other way, and everything was shredded.”

Flowers recalled the violent day while holding a golf club at the driving range on a gorgeous, peaceful autumn morning at Woodmont Country Club, not from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has been at Walter Reed for six months, ever since triggering a booby trap while trying to clear a weapons cache in what he described as “a little crappy house” near Bagram, Afghanistan.

Flowers and about a half-dozen other amputee veterans from Walter Reed took swings at the driving range for about an hour, then played a couple of holes in the afternoon as part of a program called “First Swing.” Some of the veterans were returning to a game they love. Some were trying it for the first time. All had recently lost at least one limb while serving their country.

Flowers sat in a specially designed golf cart, called a SoloRider. Operated with hand controls, the cart's seat swiveled so that he could remain strapped in place while addressing the ball. The 29-year-old Army staff sergeant, who used to play four or five times a week back home in Diamondhead, Miss., was on a course for the first time since his injury.

“I can't get a full shoulder turn,” he said after hitting a ball about 100 yards downrange on one of his first attempts. “But it's not bad. I just don't have the distance, but other than that I'm making contact with the ball. I'm used to playing with some better clubs. It's not a big deal. I don't care what they give me, just as long as I'm hitting the ball. I'm extremely happy they let us come out here.”

The program is a joint undertaking by Disabled Sports USA, the National Amputee Golf Association and the military. The goal is to give veterans a break from endless stir-crazy days at Walter Reed, where it can be all too easy to sit in a room and play video games or succumb to self-pity and depression. Instead they are shown that sports are not off limits to amputees.

“Some are really motivated and want to go do everything in every sport,” said Kat Poster of Disabled Sports USA. “Others, it's very hard to get them out of the hospital. But what we find is we get them on one event, whether it's a day of golf or a week of skiing, they're hooked. They want to do more. If they can do one thing, they can do anything.”

Other programs allow Walter Reed veterans the chance to master kayaking, scuba diving and rock climbing, among other sports. Similar programs have been set up near other military bases and hospitals around the country. Veterans are encouraged to bring families along, with the goal of making sports an option for a family outing once they're done with rehab and are back in civilian life.

Gabriel Garcia, who brought his wife, brother and son to Woodmont, needed some persuading to give golf a try. A strong 27-year-old Army staff sergeant from Yuma, Ariz., he was into more physical sports before losing his right arm to a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.

“I used to be a cage fighter. I used to do a lot of jujitsu. I used to compete in the army tournaments. I was the top guy at Fort Hood for my weight class. I was actually really good. That was my sport,” Garcia said. “Golf was never a thing I liked back in the day, but it's ’Go out here and have a good time.' It's what I'm going to be doing now. It's one of the sports I can do.”

Naturally right-hand, Garcia had to be convinced that he should play left-handed instead of trying to hold the club with his prosthetic right arm. He took several awkward swings, saying “This is weird” before finally making contact, topping the ball a short distance.

“Twenty yards. Pretty good,” he said with a smile to his family. “Lucky bounce.”

For inspiration, Garcia can look to his friend Ramon Padilla, a true success story. Padilla had never played golf before he arrived at Walter Reed in July 2007, having lost his left arm when a rocket-propelled grenade blew up next to him while returning from patrol in Afghanistan.

“At first I'm like, ’ ‘Are you crazy? I've only got one hand' or whatever,” Padilla said. “They encouraged me to go, so I went, and as soon as I hit my first good ball, one thing led to another, and next thing you know I'm out there hitting thousands of balls.”

Padilla played the back nine at Woodmont while the others were on the driving range. He birdied the par-5 No. 10, the hardest hole on the course, and feels he can shoot a score in the 80s.

He helped steady his club with an ingenious homemade apparatus attached to his prosthetic left arm, something he calls “the pinch hitter.” It's a piece of rubber attached to a huge ball bearing with a piece of a gasoline hose, and it gives him the flexibility to achieve something close to a standard two-handed golf swing. It was designed by several people, including his therapist and prosthetist.

“It's probably going to end up being a marketed thing,” he said.

The 34-year-old Padilla spent two years at Walter Reed and retired from the army last month. Originally from Los Angeles, he is making Maryland his home with his wife and four children and wants to devote himself full-time to helping other amputee veterans.

“I feel I've still got to educate, mentor and support the solders that are coming in behind me,” Padilla said. “That's actually my full-time job right now, golf as much as I can and take these guys out and show them how to network out here.”





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PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.


The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.

Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.


We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.