The weather is warming, and golfers around Central New York will soon be hitting the links.
One local organization is working to break down barriers to the sport.
“People can play it at any age,” said Greg Callen, the founder of New York Adaptive Golf. “I just felt that it was a good platform for individuals to get out in the sun, to get some socialization, and to think about something versus their injury.”
Callen knows from personal experience how important that is.
In 2005, he was paralyzed from the waist down after a fall from a balcony. Four years later, he founded Move Along Inc., a non-profit organization that offers adaptive sports. It began as a wheelchair basketball program for adults, and has grown significantly since then, offering eight programs ranging from adaptive cycling and sled hockey to kayaking and paddling.
After more than a decade with the organization, Callen decided to step away last January.
“My vision changed to wanting to stay in one lane,” he said. “I have a lot of contacts in the golf industry, and I decided to focus on developing a not-for-profit with the vision of golf being the platform for reintegration for individuals and their families.”
With that, New York Adaptive Golf was born.
The organization – which Callen said is the first of its kind in New York state and is modeled after the Georgia State Golf Association Adaptive Golf Program – provides the adaptations an individual needs to play the sport. It held several clinics and community events during its first year (“the excitement surrounding it has been pretty immense,” said Callen), and is in the process of acquiring more adaptive carts. Callen estimates that the cost for each is between $12,000 and $30,000. New York Adaptive Golf also has an initiative to help veterans, and is working on a grant with the VA.
“Our goal is to get four pieces of equipment to send out four veterans trained in cart access to play golf without the assistance of anyone else,” said Callen. “Sending one veteran out with their family has been achieved. Last year we had a veteran from Watertown that became part of our assessment program. We have a golf simulator, and we had him come down and do some indoor training. He got comfortable with a piece of equipment (the SoloRider was good for him because he still has some rigidity in his legs)…He then used the equipment to go out and play with his friends and became more independent with it. His quote was, ‘This is life-changing for me.’”
“Those are the impacts we’re trying to make. Big push on veterans, but very inclusive to all community members.”
For more information about New York Adaptive Golf, visit newyorkadaptivegolf.com.