Myrtle Beach PGA Pros bring more access to golf for disabled
Two men are trying to provide increased opportunities on the Grand Strand to golfers with disabilities.
Class A PGA of America professional Darren deMaille, who recently moved to the area and opened a golf school at Harbour View Golf in Little River, wants to help golfers with disabilities learn how to play through the Stand Up and Play Foundation and has purchased a specialized ParaGolfer cart to assist them.
Jason Faircloth, who founded the United States Disabled Golf Association in North Carolina, wants to give them a national tournament on the Strand.
deMaille has created the Myrtle Beach Chapter of the Stand Up and Play program and raised $15,000 through his golf academy and word of mouth to purchase the ParaGolfer, which is being shipped from Germany and is expected to arrive Tuesday.
The ParaGolfer is a single-rider cart featuring an inclining seat that puts a player into a golf posture, and it is designed to ride throughout the course including on greens. The Stand Up and Play Foundation and the cart are designed for paraplegics, but deMaille wants to assist golfers with any disability.
"There has to be an opportunity for the veterans or anyone who can use it to play golf. It's such good therapy for people," deMaille said. "I don't want it to just sit there. I want people to know it's here and they can use it."
deMaille, 39, a graduate of the Campbell University PGA Golf Management program, has been teaching in recent years on Long Island. He had an academy this past summer in Huntington, N.Y., and previously was the head pro at The Bridge golf course in Bridgehampton, N.Y.
deMaille developed a passion for assisting golfers with physical disabilities after meeting paraplegic Anthony Netto, the Stand Up and Play Foundation's founder who was injured in both military service and an auto accident. He used a ParaGolfer cart at his academy that belonged to the town of Huntington.
"When I first met Anthony and saw the joy that people got out of using it, people who hadn't played golf for 20 years because of their disability and came and played for the first time, anybody could have that passion if they saw it," deMaille said.
Netto taught deMaille how to instruct with the ParaGolfer. "I started understanding hitting from a chair and some of the techniques and fundamentals that have to be there," said deMaille, who has been invited by his former boss, Jack Druga, the head pro at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, to be the official starter on the first tee for the 2018 U.S. Open.
deMaille has three children with his wife, Jamie, whose parents live in Conway, and they wanted to move to the area before their young children became entrenched in schools and groups of friends.
deMaille visited the Strand at the end of the summer to find a place to teach, and worked out an agreement at the Harbour View complex that includes a driving range and par 3 course. He moved to Carolina Forest and opened the Double D Golf school on Oct. 1.
The ParaGolfer's home will be Harbour View, but deMaille hopes to arrange for the cart to go off property for rounds of golf. A friend has designed a ramp that will get the unit into and out of an SUV, mini-van or larger vehicle. deMaille is offering a free ParaGolfer training session with prospective players. He can be reached at 203-895-1133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Grande Dunes Resort Course, one of 22 courses operated by Founders Group International, also has a different single-rider swivel-chair cart designed for players with disabilities that can be used with advanced notice.
Faircloth, 37, has high hopes for the U.S. Disabled Golf Association, and he wants the Grand Strand to be a big part of them.
He has cerebral palsy and first thought of creating the USDGA in 2011. It has been a registered 501c3 charity since May 2015.
His primary goal with the USDGA is to have an annual national tournament for golfers of all disabilities that will consist of at least 36 holes of competition and a practice round, and he wants the tournament to be held on the Strand.
"There are not many golf tournaments that showcase golfers with disabilities," Faircloth said. "With disabled golf, there are a lot of places you can go and do the clinics, there's just not that many opportunities for people to actually play in a major tournament."
Faircloth is from Clinton, N.C., and is on the North Carolina Council for Developmental Disabilities. He also envisions the USDGA offering clinics in the Carolinas for golfers with disabilities, at least in the areas of Myrtle Beach, Fayetteville, N.C., and Jacksonville, N.C.
Faircloth played in the Disabled British Open for golfers with disabilities and impairments in both 2011 and '12, finishing second in his flight in 2012 at East Sussex National Golf Resort and 28th overall out of 88 golfers with a myriad of disabilities from about a dozen countries.
The blueprint for his tournament has handicap indexes and three flights, with a stroke play format for the better players and a Stableford points accumulating format for higher handicaps.
Faircloth is seeking additional volunteers and sponsors for his organization, but hasn't had much luck.
"My initial goal was to try to go ahead and set a date for the tournament, but we won't be able to do that until we find more people to get involved," said Faircloth, who worked in pro shops for about 15 years since he was a teenager. "We'll need some volunteers that have some connections in the game of golf to make this a go. The area will have to get behind it. It's going to take a team to get this to the level it needs to be."
Faircloth said the PGA of America is donating a vendor booth to him for January's 2017 PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., so he can promote the organization.
A fundraising tournament for the USDGA is being held Dec. 10 at Possum Trot Golf Club and some of the proceeds will help Faircloth create marketing material for the show.
The tournament is $50 per player, has a four-person team captain's choice format and 10 a.m. shotgun start, and includes lunch and an after party at Molly Darcy's Irish Pub & Restaurant.
Faircloth can be reached at 910-214-5983 or email@example.com, or through the USDGA.net website.
One other event for golfers with disabilities is the Southern Amputee Golf Association Regional Championship, which will be held next May 19-21 at Chatuge Shores Golf Course in Hayesville, N.C. Tournament organizer Dewey Easley III said the event had 23 players this past year.
The National Amputee Golf Association has a national open and senior championship that was held in August this year on the Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Oregon. Easley said the national organization is changing its name to the National Adaptive Golf Association to be more inclusive of players with disabilities. "Which is what we're all attempting to do. We're reaching out," Easley said. "We're not where we want to be but we're on our way."