Challenge Aspen helps disabled hit the links | AspenTimes.com

Challenge Aspen helps disabled hit the links

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Challenge Aspen hosted its third annual golf clinic on Thursday, bringing people with disabilities together with the world of fairways, chips and tee times.

The Fred Alexander Memorial Golf Clinic for Individuals with Disabilities was sponsored by the Fred and Judy Alexander Foundation, a Lake Tahoe, Calif.-based organization that puts on free clinics for kids and those with disabilities.

“Challenge Aspen is a perfect tie-in with us because they’re eager to add to their summer schedule of activities,” said Shelly Godeken-Wright, a PGA professional and executive director of the foundation. “With disabled persons you develop a teaching style that each person feels comfortable with. It’s not conventional teaching, but who cares?”

One-handed, two-handed, sitting and standing, Challenge Aspen participants knocked golf balls into the driving range at the Aspen Golf Club with the help of Colorado PGA professionals.

“We want to encourage more people with physical limitations to recreate and give them more recreational options in the valley,” said Challenge Aspen co-founder Amanda Boxtel.

And the options for some golf enthusiasts are now wider in the Roaring Fork Valley. On Thursday, the Basalt-based R.H. Crossland Foundation donated a specially designed golf cart to the Aspen Golf Club that gives disabled golfers the ability to perfect their swings while sitting down.

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The cart, which sells for about $6,000, has the ability to drive in and out of sand traps and over greens. The seat can elevate to give a golfer a chance to hit the ball from a “standing” position.

“It’s in between a golf cart and an all-terrain vehicle,” said SoloRider President Roger Pretekin. “For anyone with upper body strength, it enables them to golf by turning the seat. Paraplegics with injuries up high can use a seat belt to secure themselves to the seat and golf.”

Dennis Murray, an Aspen resident who lost the use of his legs in a skiing accident in 1999, owns one of three such carts in the entire valley, and he loans it out to golf courses for disabled golfers.

“This is another thing that you can do that you didn’t think you could,” Murray said. “But more and more disabled people are starting to play.”

And now that the Aspen Golf Club has its own cart to lend, Murray was ready to hit the links with his friend, Basalt resident Jim Finch, a double-leg amputee.

“My friends and family play golf – this is a great way to socialize with them, get out there and play golf together,” Finch said. “Golf is now one of those sports that transcends disabilities.”

Finch was smacking golf balls far into the driving range from the swivel-ready seat of the cart, but said he has had to adapt his game from two hands to one. He said golf is “definitely a different game” when played sitting down without hip rotation or knee flexibility.

“But it would be tough to play with a wheelchair, since the game would become so cumbersome and difficult that you’d never play,” he said. “This way I can call up the club, reserve a cart and a tee time, and I’m one of the crowd.”

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com.]

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