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Swing of Things: Golf Program Helps with Trauma Recovery

Posted on: July 30th, 2018

7/30/2018

Patrick Moon, South Georgia Medical Center physical therapist, assists 67-year-old Bill Cunningham as he plays golf Wednesday morning during the Adaptive Golf Clinic opener. Cunningham suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side.

Article by Amanda M. Usher with the Valdosta Daily Times, originally printed in the July 30, 2018 edition.

Bih Cunningham was an avid golfer before his stroke.

The 67-year-old said he’d been indulging in the sport since the age of 13 or 14 before a July 2017 stroke paralyzed his right side.

The Tallahassee, Fla., resident made the trip to Valdosta to attend the community introduction of the Adaptive Golf Clinic at Stone Creek Golf Club Wednesday It was hosted by the Georgia State Golf Association in partnership with South Georgia Medical Center and Stone Creek. The clinic will be held every third Wednesday monthly at Stone Creek.

The newly implemented program is free and caters to people with special needs, who have survived a stroke and who is vision or hearing impaired, according to organizers. “

We want to eliminate as many barriers as possible for folks with physical, cognitive or sensory impairments to come out and attain the values in which the game provides,” said David Windsor, Adaptive Golf director.

Though the program has never been in Valdosta until now, Cunningham said he attended an Adaptive Golf event in Savannah.

SGMC will provide physical therapists to help with participant recovery

“I love the game,” he said. His wife, Laurie Cunningham, said Bill entered into retirement December 2016 and had planned on spending his days at the golf range. His stroke deferred his plans. “That was going to be his main activity during retirement, and then he couldn’t do it anymore,” she said. Participating in Adaptive Golf aids her husband both physically, emotionally and socially she said.“

It’s meeting new people, it’s being outdoors and it gives him hope that he’ll be able to play again … he’s motivated,” she said. Leilani Lucas said being present at the event Wednesday helped her son, 15-year-old James Lucas. James was diagnosed with Down syndrome following birth, she said. She said she believes he will meet others like himself while learning to play golf. “Physically, he has no issues, so he’s very active in all sports and very social,” Leilani Lucas said. Windsor said the program builds relationships between people, offers endurance and muscle strength, support, encouragement and improvement for both golf coaches and participants. Justin Sigmon, Stone Creek head golf professional, is personally connected to Adaptive Golf due to his brother being born with cerebral palsy, he said.“

Golf was always really hard for him, and he always had a tough time with it,” he said. “So I always thought if we could bring something to Valdosta that could help others experience the game like I have and find the joy in it… it’d be really great.”

Specialized equipment affords people the chance to interactively play golf, including a para-golfer cart for those with upper or lower spine injuries.“

We can tackle just about any kind of ailment somebody may have that may prevent them from playing; Today, they’re going to be able to experience golf again,” Sigmon said.

South Georgia Medical Center will provide physical therapists to help with participant recovery and community transitioning, Windsor said.

Sigmon said Valdosta has never had a program similar to Adaptive Golf. The program can grow to meet twice per month, he said.

Georgia State Golf Association has Adaptive Golf programs in Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, Windsor said.

Call Sigmon at (229) 506-0882 for information on how to volunteer. To learn more about Adaptive Golf, visit gsga.org.

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