Dennis Walters, disability and disrespect

By Al TaysMay 23, 2015, 12:00 pm

Dennis Walters has spent almost 40 years delivering a simple message:

Don't ever let anybody tell you that you can't do something.

A paraplegic since 1974, Walters was told he would never walk again.

Yet he did.

He was told he would never play golf again.

Yet he did.

If he isn't the most positive person I've ever met, he's in the discussion.

There are some people and things, however, that make him positively angry.

Spoiled professional athletes, for instance.

"I have no use for pro sports whatsoever," he says, his eyes turning steely. "Zero. They’re making five, 10 million dollars, they’re unhappy."


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His rise in blood pressure is absolutely palpable when the subject turns to attitudes toward the disabled. "I want you to read this," he says, producing a printout of an article by Jerry Tarde, chairman and editor-in-chief of Golf Digest. It's a remembrance of the late Frank Hannigan, the former USGA senior executive director who died March 22, 2014. The column, headlined "Portrait of a Man Who Shook Things Up," won a second-place prize in the Golf Writers Association of America's annual writing contest.

"How could someone write this?" Walters wants to know. "And how could he get an award for it?"

At first glance, I'm puzzled. It's a well written remembrance of a complex, controversial man. Most of what I knew about Hannigan came from watching him on TV when he served as a rules expert for ABC. I interviewed him by phone a couple of times, and read many of his "Letters from Saugerties" columns that ran on GeoffShackelford.com. In my experience, many of the terms used to describe him over the years - "opinionated," "cantankerous," "biting humor" - were accurate.

There was nothing humorous, however, about the Hannigan quote that Walters pointed out to me: "Screw the disabled."

How could there not have been a stink raised over this, Walters wanted to know. What if a similar sentiment had been expressed about women, or a minority group? And how could the GWAA possibly give this column an award when it contained such a sentiment?

The short answer is, for a lot of reasons. The quote comes 1,000 words into a 1,600-word article. It's not a new quote. It's contained in a section where Tarde references Hannigan's "characteristically acerbic" monthly critiques of Golf Digest: "About an inspiring story on disabled golfers, his response was: 'Screw the disabled.'"

In an e-mail, Tarde provided more context for the passage. "I always believed that a good profile showed the subject at his best and at his worst and guided the reader to a fair conclusion," he wrote. "I knew Hannigan for almost 40 years, including long stretches of not speaking to each other because of disagreement about his ruthless and intemperate opinions, and I wasn't alone. He could also be incredibly intelligent and, dare I say, kind. To ignore either side of Frank was to misrepresent the man."

Let me stop for a moment here and make one thing perfectly clear: This isn't about Frank Hannigan or Jerry Tarde. This is about the experience of being disabled. And it's not a plea for sympathy; it's about the desire to be treated with respect and dignity, something everyone deserves, and why the disabled often feel they aren't.

First, no one likes to admit to a weakness, especially a physical one. Ever hear of "survival of the fittest"?

Second, health is supposed to be a private matter. But it's hard, if not impossible, to keep a disability a secret when you're in a wheelchair, or on crutches or parking in handicapped spots.


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Photos: Dennis Walters at home


Last, the disabled are often viewed in a negative light even by the people who love them. Wayne Warms is one of Walters' oldest and closest friends. After Walters' accident, Warms worked with him on developing a swing he could use while sitting down. But Warms at first thought he couldn't do it. "The first time I saw Dennis on crutches with his braces, it made me absolutely sick to my stomach," he said. "Because I knew him when he wasn't like that. And as a result of feeling that way, I kind of got turned off a little bit. I'll never forget the feeling that I had that night, when I was thinking about it. I beat myself up all night over how I could feel that way and letting him down after all the things we had done before the accident."

Is it any wonder that when someone who has the good fortune to be able-bodied tosses out a thoughtless remark like "Screw the disabled," it might just get under the skin of a Dennis Walters?

Which brings me to my final point about respect. Plenty of golf luminaries, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, have supported the idea of Walters being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in the Lifetime Achievement category. Here are the eligibility requirements, straight from the WGHOF's website:

"To be considered for selection in the Lifetime Achievement category, an individual must have contributed to the game significantly in areas outside of the competitive arena (i.e. administrator, course architect, innovator, instructor, media, etc.)."

How about someone who has carved out a living for himself in the game despite monumental odds? Someone who created a career in golf doing things no one had ever done before? Someone who remains unique in his job description? Someone who has undoubtedly brought people into the game - both disabled and able-bodied - through the example of his own success?

What more evidence could the selection committee need of a tireless ambassador for golf? And not to be morbid, but Walters isn't getting any younger. Wouldn't it be nice to induct him while he's still around to enjoy it?

It would show him some respect.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.