Brad Clayton, author and Professional Golfers’ Association of America master professional in teaching, worked with ECU's Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies to hold an Oct. 24 seminar on adapted golf for people with disabilities. (Photos by Jay Clark)

Golf ‘Fore’ All event removes barriers for players with disabilities

Nov. 6, 2015

By Kathy Muse
For ECU News Services

Shima Nixon, a 23-year-old who lost both legs in a car accident, had never played golf before but wanted to give it a try. “I want to live my life without limits,” Nixon said.

“Anything that’s out there, I’m going to try to do,” she said. “You shouldn’t put limits on your life at all.”

Nixon found success quickly under the tutelage of instructor Brad Clayton during her first lesson and was making solid contact on the driving range. Every hit drew applause from spectators and brought a beaming smile to Nixon’s face.
Shima Nixon, who lost both of her legs in a car accident, takes a swing during the Adapted Golf program at the Bradford Creek Golf Course.

Nixon was one of nearly a dozen participants in a recent adapted golf clinic called Golf ‘Fore’ All organized by ECU’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies in the College of Health and Human Performance.

Clayton, author and a Professional Golfers’ Association of America master professional in teaching, conducted the clinic. The event provided instruction and an afternoon of recreation for participants with disabilities, while training ECU students on techniques for assisting individuals with disabilities. The clinic was held Oct. 24 at the Bradford Creek Golf Course.

“I enjoyed it,” Nixon said. “It was far from what I expected.”

ECU professor Dr. David Loy helped organize the clinic. Loy is associate professor of recreational therapy in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies.

“Students received the opportunity to get hands on experience and learn about an activity they may want to promote to people with disabilities to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle,” Loy said.

Recreational therapy major Ashley McMullen, a native of Roxboro, found volunteering at the event helped confirm her career goals. “This was a rewarding experience that was just so inspiring,” McMullen said. “It was a huge reminder that this is what I really want to do. I needed a day like this to put things into perspective.”

Fellow student-volunteer, Kelsie Schoen, a senior in the recreational therapy program, played golf on her high school team but hasn’t picked up her clubs in several years. She is passionate about working with people who have disabilities and wants to help remove barriers to their participation.

“If you want to play golf, you find a way to do it and you do it,” Schoen said.

“It’s all about fun,” she added. “[Participants] are working on their strength while they are having fun and using muscles they don’t get to use very often.”
Anthony Netto, from the Stand Up and Play Foundation, demonstrates the Paramobile, a wheelchair that can be used to play golf and many other sports. Each chair retails for around $31,000 but his foundation works to get them for people at reduced cost. 

After years of working as a PGA teaching professional and competing, Clayton lost his right hand in an accident and continues to play golf. Clayton stressed that players do not have to hit the ball far to achieve good scores.

“Most people try to hit too hard, especially if they’re in a wheelchair because they feel like they have to compensate,” he said. “It’s about finding a smaller swing to get some success.”

“Knowing that you can overcome what you have going on… [golf] challenges you in so many ways,” Clayton said. “It’s a special game. Nothing can touch it."

The event featured a one-hole golf match and included individuals with disabilities, PGA teaching professionals and volunteers from both the ECU men’s and women’s golf teams.

It was the first time ECU women’s golf team member Nicoline Skaug of Oslo, Norway had volunteered at an adapted event. Skaug, a finance major, has played golf since she was 12 years old. “I learned a lot about attitude and how important that is for golf, but also in everyday life,” Skaug said.

Organizers also worked with the Stand Up and Play Foundation to provide a mobility device called ParaMobile, which is designed to lift users from a sitting position to a standing position. The device helps maneuver on the golf course or other outdoor terrain. Additional adapted golf aids include velcro gloves, shortened or lengthened golf clubs and cushioned grips for those with hand grip strength limitations.

Gary Fenton, director of Greenville Recreation and Parks, was a partner in hosting the event.

“The focus of our department is inclusion,” Fenton said. “Hosting an event like this one brings attention to what’s possible, not what’s impossible, to both those with disabilities and those without,” Fenton said.

ECU’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, Support Team for Active Recreation, Vidant Medical Center Foundation, Stand Up and Play Foundation, Greenville Recreation and Parks, Bradford Creek Public Golf Course, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gordon’s Golf Ski and Snowboards and PuzzleDuck Golf collaborated to host the event.

Pictured below, instructor Anthony Netto, left, works with Greenville resident Jamie Yahnker to help him use the Paramobile wheelchair. Yahnker is president of Greenville STAR (Support Team for Active Recreation).