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Disabled Athletes Stand Up, Golf for Wounded Warriors

RICHMOND, VA (Posted: Friday, September 26, 2014 10:30 pm)

Jeff Trice, right, putts with ParaGolfer device as Bob Fahy, left, looks on during the Star Spangled Scramble golf tournament, which benefits A Wounded Warrior Project, at Belmont Golf Course in Henrico on Friday, September 26, 2014.
Jeff Trice, right, putts with ParaGolfer device as Bob Fahy, left, looks on during the Star Spangled Scramble golf tournament, which benefits A Wounded Warrior Project, at Belmont Golf Course in Henrico on Friday, September 26, 2014.

Jeff Trice uses a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop him from standing up straight, gripping the club and swinging at the ball with all of his upper body strength.Trice moved around the golf course in a ParaGolfer, a wheelchair with a seat that propped him to a vertical position and strapped him in an upright stance. A thick chest pad holds Trice’s body to the chair. A seat belt secured his waist, and sturdy knee straps kept his legs in place.

Trice’s ball formed a smooth arc in the air and landed by the flag.

His fellow golfers enthusiastically offered their congratulations.

“Hey Sid, if you don’t get closer than me you owe me $100. If you do, then Bob owes you $100,” Trice said to Sid Cooke, who also uses a ParaGolfer. Trice was referring to Bob Fahy, a golfer who is not disabled.

Trice and Cooke competed Friday afternoon in the Star Spangled Scramble Golf Tournament, a charity event that raised money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a veterans organization. About 100 golfers paid $75 to play on the Belmont Golf Course in Henrico County, according to Douglas H. McElhinny, a representative from the Stand Up and Play Foundation.

The foundation helps people who use a wheelchair participate in sports and various other hobbies through paramobile devices.

The event was organized by Rink Management Services Corp., a company that runs the Belmont Golf Course for Henrico.

Cooke said that before multiple sclerosis took his legs in 2005, he played golf multiple times a week. Two years ago, he got back the ability to play his beloved sport through the ParaGolfer.

He said that to properly swing the club, he needs his whole body. With the ParaGolfer, he gets to use his shoulders and arms.

“But I’ll take it,” Cooke said.

Cooke slowly moved to an upright position and took his time before his swing. He sighed quietly, not happy with where the ball landed.

The ParaGolfer is more than a means to play golf, Trice said. It lifts his spirits and allows his body relief from sitting.

“It makes you feel good about yourself,” Trice said.

He added that he wished he had something like this to aid him in other activities, such as playing pool or getting a cup from a cabinet. But his insurance provider considers the $21,000 device recreational. Trice lost the use of his legs in a car accident in 2005.

Trice said that the chair is easy to operate, demonstrating the buttons to move vertically and manage the speed of the chair.

He sets the speed to 5.

“I like to feel the wind in my hair,” Trice said.