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.

Previous 'Challenged Tour' columns

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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Watch: Hahn slam-dunks ace on 11th hole

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:20 pm

There are aces, and there are slam-dunk aces. No question which one this one by James Hahn on the 154-yard 11th hole was.

It was Hahn's first ace on the PGA Tour.

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Els' nephew Rebula wins Amateur Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:05 pm

Ernie Els is one proud uncle.

His nephew, Jovan Rebula, won the Amateur Championship on Saturday at Royal Aberdeen to become the first South African to capture the title since Bobby Cole in 1966.

Rebula, a junior at Auburn, will join his famous uncle in Carnoustie next month for The Open. He also will get invites to the 2019 Masters and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Rebula defeated Ireland's Robin Dawson, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final.

"It’s unreal," Rebula said. "It’s really something that is hard to describe. I feel like many have been in this position before but it’s an unreal feeling. It hasn’t sunk in quite yet but hopefully tomorrow morning I can wake up and I will feel a little different."

Rebula received plenty of texts from Els throughout the week, and the encouragement paid off. Rebula opened a 1-up lead after 18 holes, and he extended his advantage by winning the 26th and 27th holes. He was 5 up with six to play before finally closing out Dawson on the 16th hole with an up-and-down from the bunker.

"It’s been a long week and especially today," Rebula said. "I should have finished maybe a couple of holes earlier, but it’s been awesome. A very tiring week. I’m standing here right now and there’s so much adrenaline pumping through me."

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Squirrel gets Rory's round off to a rocky start

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 6:42 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy’s third round at the Travelers Championship got off to a peculiar start before he even hit a shot.

McIlroy had just been introduced on the first tee at TPC River Highlands and was ready to unload on his opening drive of the day when a squirrel ran across the tee box a few feet in front of him.

McIlroy stopped his swing and laughed it off, but the squirrel continued to linger for several seconds, criss-crossing from one side of the packed tee box to the other. And while this was no black cat, the pump-fake to start his round didn’t exactly help the Ulsterman.

McIlroy ultimately blocked his drive into the right rough after enduring his brief rodent delay en route to an opening bogey, and amid soft conditions at TPC River Highlands he played his first five holes in 2 over. McIlroy started the day at 7 under, three shots behind leader Brian Harman.

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Kaymer in six-way tie for BMW International lead

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 5:29 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - Danish golfer Lucas Bjerregaard shot a 5-under 67 to equal the week's lowest round for a six-way share of the lead after the third round of the BMW International Open on Saturday.

Bjerregaard had eight birdies, a double bogey and a bogey to finish on 5-under 211 - jumping 23 places and joining local favorites Martin Kaymer and Maximilian Kieffer, England's Chris Paisley and Aaron Rai, and Australia's Scott Hend at the top of the leaderboard.

Bjerregaard was fortunate to play before the wind picked up again later in the afternoon.

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Kaymer, the 2008 champion, delighted the home supporters with two birdies in his last three holes for a 71.

Finland's Mikko Korhonen and Chile's Nico Geyger were one shot off the lead after rounds of 69 and 73, respectively.

Defending champion Andres Romero equaled the week's best round (67) to be among a large group two shots off the lead going into Sunday, including three-time European Tour winner Andy Sullivan.

Romero is bidding to be the first player to retain the title.