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."


Dennis Walters: A life of turning tragedy into triumph

Inspired by Dennis Walters: Three shared stories


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.


[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"1103446","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"286","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"480"}}]]

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.

Getty Images

Rose's Saturday 64 matches Carnoustie Open record

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 1:03 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose needed to sink a 14-foot putt on the final hole Friday just to make the cut on the number at The Open.

Freewheeling when he came to the course Saturday, Rose tied the lowest score ever recorded in an Open at Carnoustie.

Entering the weekend nine shots off the lead, the world No. 3 carded a bogey-free, 7-under 64 to at least make things interesting. It won’t be known for several hours how many shots Rose will be behind, but his back-nine 30 gives him an opportunity, if the wind blows 25 mph Sunday as forecast, to challenge the leaders.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


After all, Paul Lawrie was 10 shots back entering the final round here in 1999.

“I think the birdie on 18 last night freed me up, and I’m just very happy to be out on this golf course and not down the road somewhere else this morning,” said Rose, who is at 4-under 209. “So that might have been part of the shift in mindset today. I had nothing to lose from that point of view.”

Rose’s 64 matched Steve Stricker and Richard Green’s record score at Carnoustie (2007).

It also was Rose’s career-low round in a major.

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 12:45 pm

Tiger Woods, in search of his 15th career major championship title, started the weekend six off the lead at Carnoustie. We're tracking him in Round 3 of The Open.


Getty Images

Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 12:20 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Saturday, Day 3 (Times ET)

4:30-7AM (Watch): Sunny skies and birdies were on the menu early in Round 3, as Justin Rose made his way around Carnoustie in 64 strokes. Click here or on the image below to watch.


Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

8:20AM-3PM (Watch): As the skies cleared on Friday afternoon, defending champion Jordan Spieth made a run to try and regain the claret jug. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith.


Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

Getty Images

How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 8:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)