Playing Through

Achieving Par and Other Goals at the Eastern Amputee Golf Association Tournament

For most golfing above-the-knee amputees, you're only as good as your artificial limb. "I've had patients who could walk on a stick," says Dan Bastian, a certified prosthetist, sometime golfer, and cancer amputee, whose clinic sponsors the LI tournament. "But it all comes back to socket design. That's where the art comes in." Back in the clubhouse bar, Doody agrees. "Look at this baby," he chortles, waving a Heineken for emphasis. "All graphite, shock absorber, rotator—weighs six and a half pounds. I had it specially made for golf. I can almost run in it. But it's the fit that counts. If you can play 27 holes and not break down, you got a leg."

Getting a leg up: Chris Doody whacks another one.
photo: Pete Kuhns
Getting a leg up: Chris Doody whacks another one.

As stated on its Web site, the EAGA's objectives are to assist its 743 members in rehab and provide for general amputee welfare, "physical and psychological," through golf. Competitive for some, social for all, the three-day Long Island event is but one in a string of amputee golf tournaments held in the Northeast throughout the summer. And even for the most competitive here in Manorville—Doody and Valentine—camaraderie rules. "It's kind of hard to explain," says Valentine. "It's like nobody has anything to hide. It's real therapeutic, I guess. You learn a lot and have a good time."

Pine Hills head pro Jimmi Conway says that the everyday golfers he teaches could all learn a great deal from this group, both technically and spiritually. "There's a lot of natural swing there," he says, "and hitting the ball is almost secondary. When you have less to think of, the ball goes from A to B with less effort. But more than that, golf becomes trivial here. It's not life and death; it's social energy. Their competition is themselves."

Though not always. Sometimes, in the struggle for acceptance, competition lies across the fence. Doody, who plays for money back home, says his favorite thing is "to beat able-bodied guys. They hate it." Mecca hosts her own annual outing in Pennsylvania to "make people more aware about amputees." She also plays in regular tournaments, on occasion winning longest drive contests. "It fries some of the ladies," she says, "but it gives me an opportunity to prove myself." And when they tell her they can't believe that she hits it that far, she tells them, "You should see some of my friends play."

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