Once a Golfer, Always a Golfer, No Matter the Obstacles

Published Friday, July 21, 2009

Hoadley Mitchell was six when he was hit by a car, causing damage to the right side of his brain and partial paralysis to the left side of his body. By the time Hoadley was a teenager he’d had more than twenty operations. Hoadley says “it slowed me down a bit but not much.” Hoadley has tried numerous adaptive sports and competed as a swimmer in the 2003 Kelowna BC Disability Games. This year Hoadley is competing as a golfer in the BC Disability Games in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge.

Hoadley’s support worker, Gary, explains that “six years ago we were focused on training in swimming and only golfed periodically and then it was fall and we were focused on skiing and it wasn’t until the next year that we became more serious about golf.” Once the focus switched to golf it stayed there.

Hoadley uses a training grip on his clubs “because his left hand has a tendency to curl inward due to atrophying muscles and with regular clubs he can’t get a good grip. A training grip has ridges and wedges that force his hand to be in a particular position and it greatly helps his swing.”

Those who golf understand the need to constantly go back to the greens to improve upon past scores, develop their skills, and refine their game. As Hoadley Mitchell puts it “it’s a great sport for all ages and all people and the more you do it the more you want to do it.” What is often overshadowed by the challenge of the game is the connections created through the shared love of golf. It has been these connections that have helped to remove barriers that might otherwise have kept Hoadley from the fairways.

For Hoadley the adaptions which are necessary for him to play golf are not physical but attitudinal. “Hoadley walks with a gait because after all the operations his left side was quite hampered so he walks about 60% of what an average person would walk in terms of speed, efficiency, and balance.” At some courses a certain pace is expected by management and other golfers and exceptions are not made. Luckily, Hoadley and Gary are members of the Aspen Grove Golf Course in Winfield and “the support of the owners, previous and current, and that of the fellow golfers has made a real difference to Hoadley’s ability to play without barriers. The other patrons have been extremely kind, patient, friendly and receptive. That, unfortunately, is not something that you get everywhere.”

Also, the employer’s of Gary, the Lifestyle Equity Society, a non-profit society in Kelowna, have removed the financial barrier of a membership for Gary. “They do everything they can to accommodate us and the people we support and they made special allotments in their budget to get me a golf pass each year. I’m very grateful to them because they don’t have a huge amount of money to throw around but they always make sure there is room in the budget.”

Hoadley’s and Gary’s appreciation of the support of Lifestyle Equity Society and the staff and players at Aspen Grove is because “not many places take that attitude and the help was done for very compassionate reasons not for business reasons. They did it just to be good and to be fair and that kind of action deserves recognition. Any person who removes obstacles deserves thanks.”

They also add that they hope that “maybe Aspen Grove could become a place for other people with obstacles to come to golf if they knew that that is the atmosphere there.” After all, regardless of ability or barriers, once a golfer, always a golfer.