Adaptive golf helps rehabilitate disabilities

June 11, 2008 4:16:37 PM PDT
Many golfers claim they play the most difficult sport. Hitting a tiny ball to a small hole that's 400 yards away is not easy. But to Patrick Byrne of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, golf isn't just a sport-- it's a way to fight back against disabilities.

Forty-two-year-old Byrne of Norridge is a pretty darn good golfer. Last year he shot 79 twice, and usually shoots in the mid 80's. He could probably be better, but then again he has just one leg. He lost his right leg in a construction accident in 1992. Doctors said he would never walk again.

"I was very, very fortunate to be given a second chance where I had a great instructor-- my dad," said Byrne, a golf instructor at the Rehab Institute of Chicago. "So I'm out here now trying to help other people out."

Wednesday morning at the Chicago Park District's South Shore golf course, Byrne worked with two of his students. They play from adaptive golf carts provided by the Rehab Institute. It's part sport and part therapy.

"It's great exercise," said Bill Bogdan who has been disabled since he was eight-months-old. "It's an upper-body workout for people with disabilities. And then because of the fact we have these adaptive golf carts, it truly makes it accessible to all." The Chicago Park District will be adding six more of these special carts within the next week.

Charles Freeland, who was diagnosed with MS four years ago said, "It just opens up so many doors. I'll be able to go out with my family and my brother and friends and golf whenever I want."

They are practicing for next Monday's John Dolan Golf Challenge at the Merit Club in Libertyville. It's named after Danny Dolan's late son John.

"Over the years we have raised $1.75 million after all costs for this adaptive sports program," said Danny Dolan, Founder of John Dolan Golf Challenge.

For Byrne, the first victory after the accident was learning to play golf. He had never played before that. His second big victory is teaching others to play the game and love it like he does.

"It's great to go along and see how good they're doing and knowing I was part of that," said Byrne. "It's a good feeling."


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