Friday, September 11, 2015

TOP STORY >> Swinging for Therapy

By Senior Airman Kaylee Clark
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The golfer’s diet is a healthy balance of “greens,” perfect weather and a group of friends who know how to push buttons. 

The environment that surrounds the course is friendly, yet competitive. Like all other golfers, Randy Hays embraces the banter and desire to compete. He commands an inanimate object to do as he says -which may seem like lunacy, but it’s simply part of the game. 

He concentrates on proper grip, ball placement and body alignment for his swing.

And when his one-handed swing hits that sweet spot sending his ball soaring down the fairway on the Deer Run Golf Course, Hays stops and watches in admiration. 

While serving in the U.S. Army, Hays was involved in a car accident 19 years ago and left with little to no use in his left arm and leg. 

He played golf prior to his accident, but it has been two decades since the last time he has swung a club. With no intentions of letting his injuries hold him down, Hays takes full advantage of any opportunity that keeps him active. 

Randy initially learned about the opportunities at the Little Rock AFB course at an Arkansas Freedom Fund tournament. 

“You can do anything you want to under the right conditions and with the right attitude,” he said while preparing to take another swing. 

Hays uses one of the course’s specialized golf carts for wounded veterans.  The carts allow those with limited mobility a way to continue their love of the links. The golf course has adopted the Helping Our Patriots Everywhere (HOPE) program.

He takes the training home by using the carpet in his living room as an opportunity for putting practice. 

Twelve employees and volunteers offered up their time to train and get a feel for what people with disabilities deal with while trying to master the game. 

“We have programs to help everyone learn the game,” said Doug Carlton, 19th Force Support Squadron PGA Golf Course manager. “This year, we trained and started helping golfers with disabilities. Now we can say we truly have a program to help everyone learn the game.” 

The golf clubs may be shorter and built to be swung with one hand or built with special grips, but HOPE provides the specialized equipment so the participants can focus on the swing. 

“Each person is different, and we set up and build equipment for their specific situations,” said Carlton. “Helping everyone enjoy the benefits of the golf course makes my job very rewarding.”

With supporting equipment ready for hitting the links, the golfers only must worry about “gripping it and ripping it.” 

Hays’ legs may be weak and he can’t grip the club with both hands, but his drive and passion becomes more visible than the scars from his accident. When asked if he’d be back next week, he looks as if that question shouldn’t even have to be asked.

Spending most of his time on the driving range and practice green, Hays’ goal is to take his lessons to the course and play a full round of 18 holes. 

“When I told Randy’s therapist he was ready to play, he told me that Randy had been talking about the last golf lesson all week,” said Carlton. “That’s all I need.” 

Deer Run Golf Course offers a variety of golf programs: to try out a free lesson contact them at 501-987-6825 for more details.

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