NORTH YARMOUTH – Golf can be many things to many people: competitive, recreational, therapeutic.
Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation sponsors a program for disabled golfers on Mondays at Toddy Brook Golf Course. Twenty to 25 people gather and are guided by Maine Adaptive staffers and volunteers.
“There are tangible therapeutic benefits from golf,” said Eric Topper, Maine Adaptive’s director of outreach. “A lot of (the participants) are returning to golf while others are playing for the first time. It helps with physical fitness and self-confidence.”
Formerly Maine Handicap Skiing, the group changed its name more than a year ago to better reflect its mission. Maine Adaptive runs a wide range of activities and sports. The golf program was established in 1998 and seems to have found a new home at Toddy Brook, a relatively new 18-hole layout.
There’s no charge for participants. Most of Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation’s funds come from an annual skiathon. It also gets funds through sponsorships, donations and grants.
“It’s a chance to get out in the fresh air and socialize,” said Tom May, 32, of Brunswick, who is visually impaired.
A WONDERFUL ACTIVITY
May is enjoying the golf program for the first time.
“I did two rounds of golf last year and skied with them once. I’m trying to get out and do things. This is a chance to get out and have someone watch the ball,” he said.
The benefits are numerous, according to Judy Sullivan, the program director. The age of participants ranges from 7 to 80, with disabilities from visually impaired, amputees, paralysis, cancer, stroke, multiple sclerosis and congenital conditions.
“They’re enjoying a game that’s physical as well as mental,” said Sullivan. “They’re gaining experience in a sport and advancing their skills. They walk and socialize. They’re in the fresh air. Some of our visually impaired don’t get out that much or walk that much. Golf is a wonderful activity for people with disabilities.”
Before the nine holes, players hit practice shots on the range.
Gregg Baker, the course’s head pro, offers tips and enjoys the reaction after a successful swing. He worked with May for a few minutes and congratulated him on some nice shots. May has enough vision to tee the ball and hit it, but loses the ball shortly after contact.
“It’s unbelievable after they hit a shot, the smile on their faces,” said Baker. “If I see someone struggling with something, I’ll step in and help.”
A longtime pro, Baker said he’s learning just like the players. “I’m as new to this as they are. They’re very appreciative of any help I can give them.”
Keegan Moreau, 14, of Auburn and Monica Quimby, 26, of Scarborough were playing golf for the first time. Moreau, who was born without a left arm, is an avid skier and is on the Maine Adaptive racing team.
Quimby was an expert skier. In February 2006, she was skiing at Sunday River when she became paralyzed from the waist down after landing on her back after a jump.
Both have positive attitudes.
Moreau said she wasn’t sure how much more she would golf this summer because she was leaving for Idaho to be a counselor at Camp No Limits, for kids with lost limbs.
Quimby, who was crowned Miss Maine Wheelchair in 2011, is a biology professor at Southern Maine Community College.
“These programs allow me to do things I normally wouldn’t be able to do,” said Moreau. “There’s someone to teach me and show me how to make adjustments.”
Quimby rode in a specialized golf cart called a solo rider. She was able to drive the cart and adjust the swivel seat using hand controls. The seat allowed Quimby, a paraplegic, to position herself alongside the cart so she could swing the club. The golf cart is light enough that it can be driven onto the putting green.
Quimby, who also has tried water-skiing and other sports with the program, was smiling and laughing throughout her round.
“Life’s too short not to be happy,” she said.
Each golfer in the program had a volunteer assigned. “The volunteers are amazing,” said Baker. “They enjoy it as much as the players.”
Tony Rice, 70, of Scarborough learned the game as caddie at Riverside Golf Course. In 1975 he shattered his spine from a fall while painting a giant mural in Detroit. It caused paralysis in his spine and leg. After a long rehabilitation, Rice got involved in Maine Handicap Skiing and also is active in the organization’s other activities.
“After I got injured, I came back to Maine and was distressed,” said Rice.
“I discovered Maine Handicap Skiing. I ski all winter and play golf in the summer. The programs have given me a little skill and confidence, which translated into my lifestyle. It gave me a new lease on life.”
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: