A Second Chance

 In August, Legends Golf & Resort in Myrtle Beach hosted one of the most impressive and inspiring events in golf – The ParaLong Drive Cup Presented by Ottobock.

Thirty-nine athletes from across the United States, as well as Canada and Australia, competed in the event that features athletes with illnesses, injuries, and challenges.  

The event included athletes from a variety of organizations including the National Amputee Golf Association, North American One-Armed Golfers Association, Salute Military

Steve Kuketz and Dean Jarvis

Golf Association, PGA Hope Charleston, Niagara Therapy, Amputee Blade Runners, BMH Adaptive Golf Experience, and the Marty Turcios Therapeutic Golf Foundation.

Dean Jarvis is the founder and director of the Amputee Long Drive Championship and the ParaLong Drive Cup. He relates, “ParaLong Drive improves the lives of athletes that have overcome amputation, paraplegia, cerebral palsy, muscle weakness, brachial plexus injury, blindness, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress.”  

Of course, sponsorship is a key facet in these events.

“Ottobock manufacturers industry leading prosthetic legs worn by many of the competitors in the leg amputee divisions. Paralyzed athletes operated and stood up to hit in the Ottobock manufactured Paragolfer, a machine that has been vital to improving the lives of many.”

Event sponsor Carolina Orthotics & Prosthetics has been providing orthotic, prosthetic, and pedorthic care for over 30 years while another major sponsor has a decidedly New England flavor. 

“Myomo, Inc. is a publicly traded Cambridge, MA company that offers amazing technology for individuals with an arm that is paralyzed or weakened,” explains Jarvis. “Their unique powered orthosis restores function to many who thought they would never be able to use their arms again.”

The MyoPro is a myoelectric elbow/wrist/hand powered brace that supports an impaired hand and arm while also enabling them to move again. When users bend their arms or open/close their hands, precision sensors in the brace detect the weak muscle signals, which activate motors to move the hand and arm in the desired directions.

Paralong Drive

The MyoPro powered arm brace can aid individuals with muscle weakness and neuro-muscular damage from conditions including stroke, spinal cord injury, ALS, multiple sclerosis, and other upper limb neuromuscular deficits.

The sponsorship partners deserve tremendous credit,” Jarvis said. “This competition proves that athletes with illnesses, injuries, and challenges deserve opportunities to engage in competition.”

Long drive has grown internationally as well. “Fareen Samji (current ILDC International Women’s Long Drive Champion and 5-time ILDC Canadian Women’s Long Drive Champion) has provided coaching and resources to create a Kenyan long drive team,” Jarvis said. “Her efforts have played a large role in producing an athlete ranked in the top 10 on the European Long Drive Tour. The Kenyans have also been competitive in ILDC World Team Championship events.”  

Jarvis hopes to see both Long Drive and ParaLong Drive in future Olympic and Paralympic games. “It is a perfect Olympic sport because it’s far less costly for developing countries to build and maintain eco-friendly competition grids than golf courses.

    “ParaLong Drive is a perfect fit for the Paralympics for many of the same reasons. It won’t be surprising if both are included in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics and Paralympics.”

This year’s ParaLong Drive Cup Division Winners were Chris Arnold, ParaLong Drive Cup, Jonathan Shaw Amateur Long Drive Championship runner-up, Dr. Lucian Newman III, arm assisted, Jason Aken, male arm unassisted, and Gianna Rojas, female arm unassisted.

Other winners included Brian Woliver, traumatic brain injury, Marty Turcios, cerebral palsy, Fred Guttierez, hemiplegic, Gary Hooks, age 60+, Anthony Netto and Roger Sac, paralyzed – swings with 2 arms, and Brockton native and Quincy Center resident Steve Kuketz, paralyzed – swings with 1 arm.

John Molori is an author and columnist for numerous publications. Like him on Facebook at John Molori, Twitter @MoloriMedia. Email molorimedia@gmail.com.