POWHATAN, Va. (WWBT) - 74 golfers from nine countries opened competition at the United States Disabled Golf Association Open Championships on Wednesday at Independence Golf Club, and while all of them will be competing, all were winners before even arriving at the event.
There are 74 athletes and 74 stories of life with a disability.
“I was in a tragic accident when I was 19,” recalled Deborah Smith of Chicago. “My leg was essentially severed and reattached.” Smith would eventually elect to receive a prosthetic leg in improve her way of life, after numerous surgeries.
“At 39, I had a skiing injury and was paralyzed,” said Dennis Duchi, who comes to Virginia for the tournament from Weed, California. He uses an electronic paragolfer to assist in his play.
But these golfers have several things in common, outside of their love of the sport. All possess perseverance, determination, and experiences of overcoming adversity.
“Being able to go out, play golf, and getting this paragolfer has basically given my life back," Duchi said prior to his round on Wednesday. "You’re outdoors, you’re with people and you’re like one of the regular folks again.”
“I returned to golf, which is empowering," added Smith. "I sailed for the first time after having an amputation, I started running again which is a dream I thought would never come true.”
The players at this week’s tournament are both men and women with physical or intellectual impairments, and while all of these athletes are competing, they’re also celebrating each other’s triumphs with every drive, pitch and putt.
“Meet new people, compete, play a game that is something that we can do from a young age to an older age as exemplified in this tournament," said Smith.
Duchi enjoys the camaraderie among the participants.
“We’re a big family and we all root for each other because we want to see everybody have success and fun."
While these stories all may begin with a disability, the individuals also have the opportunity to provide inspiration to those around them. Duchi appreciates all of them.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re missing a leg, you’re missing an arm, you don’t have hands... whatever. You look at the disabilities of all the people here and it’s just so inspiring to see the fact that they’re out here playing.”
This marks the second annual United States Disabled Golf Association Open Championship. Play concludes at Independence on Thursday.
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