The Courses of Clear Creek unveiled two new Paragolfers the golf course received from the Stand Up and Golf Foundation during the Phantom Honors Golf Scramble opening ceremony Friday morning.
The Paragolfers are an all-terrain standing sports wheelchair. The device allows golfers with lower-body mobility challenges to freely move around a golf course and even stand up to swing their golf clubs.
III Corps and Fort Hood senior enlisted advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hendrex opened the ceremony by introducing the two guest speakers – retired Spc. JP Lane and Stand Up and Golf Foundation founder and Paragolfer co-inventor Anthony Netto.
Both Lane and Netto are wounded warriors – Lane lost both his legs in Afghanistan in 2011 and Netto was wounded in the 1990s while serving in the South African Defense Force.
“What they are, is the living, breathing epitome of those things that we hold true and dear in our lives as Soldiers, Families and even the communities that support our mission,” Hendrex said. “Those are things like overcoming obstacles that we think are never possible of doing.”
Hendrex first met Lane several years ago when Lane and other wounded warriors returned to Afghanistan as part of the Troops First Foundation’s Operation Proper Exit.
“He is truly the epitome of resiliency,” the sergeant major said.
While unveiling the new Paragolfers, Lane and Netto were joined by Kevin McJunkin, the director of the Fort Hood chapter of Stand Up and Play. Paragolfers are often donated for veterans’ use, but as he wasn’t a veteran, McJunkin had to raise the funds to buy his own Paragolfer after he became partially paralyzed in 2009. McJunkin will be training Courses of Clear Creek staff on how to use and instruct users on the Paragolfers.
Netto, who uses a wheelchair, has been very active in the adaptive sports communities for nearly three decades. He’s trained the Team USA golf team for the 2017 Invictus Games in Australia. But now, through his foundation, he travels the U.S. training PGA professionals and golfers to use the game of golf as therapy.
The Paragolfer works as an all-terrain motorized wheelchair to transport a golfer with mobility challenges around the golf course, but its use is even more than that. The Paragolfer’s mechanisms allow the golfer to go from a seated position to a standing position, enabling a more natural and traditional golf swing.
The Paragolfers can be used by anyone between 5 feet 2 inches tall to 6 feet 4 inches tall, with or without legs. A seatbelt and straps are used to secure the user in the chair, which is virtually tipover-proof, Netto said.
“The fact that we have people even paying attention to technology like this and designing technology that allows so many veterans who have been injured or paralyzed to stand up again and be able to golf using this technology is insane,” Lane said. “It blows my mind and I’m an engineer.”
Veterans’ organizations often use adaptive sports as therapy for wounded warriors. The Paragolfers allow the game of golf to be included in that conversation.
“It allows us to almost escape what our normal lives have become for a minute, for a day, for an afternoon or whatever, and enjoy life the way we could have or should have enjoyed it prior to our injuries,” Lane said.
The golf course is eager to expand its adaptability to be more accessible to local wounded and injured Soldiers, veterans and retirees.
“It’s fabulous to have them here at the course,” golf course manager Chris Osborne said. “It opens up new avenues for golfers who would not normally come out here to come out here and experience the game of golf and learn to play and then be able to enjoy themselves on the golf course.”
“We’re tickled to death to have them,” he added.
The Paragolfers are available for use immediately. Golfers wishing to use one just need to call to set up a tee time and request a Paragolfer, Osborne said. Use of the Paragolfer is free, he said.
Because the Paragolfer is a medical device, golfers will need to be trained by Courses of Clear Creek staff on how to safely use them before they can take the Paragolfer out on the links.
For more information on the Paragolfers or to reserve the devices, call the Courses of Clear Creek at 254-287-4130.