- Golfer Benefits
Annie Hayes, a longtime member at Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield, has never shied away from a challenge. After a horrific mountain biking accident on a summer morning in 2006 left her paralyzed at age 44, Hayes was determined to continue to chase athletic pursuits, even if it required machine assistance.
With some modified clubs (all clubs lower than 7-iron are the same size) and a SoloRider Golf Cart, she can easily break 100 on most days. But most importantly, it gives her the chance to compete independently and enjoy the camaraderie with other golfers.
This summer, the retired school librarian will play alongside some of the country’s most distinguished golfers with disabilities as the inaugural U.S. Adapative Open is held July 16-18 at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.
A portion of this interview with Hayes was featured in the Summer 2022 edition of MassGolfer Magazine. The following is the full interview:
How has golf played a role in your life?
My uncle used to try to teach us when we were little, but it frustrated me. I was into biking, kayaking, running and hiking. I didn’t take up golf again until I was 42. When my four kids got older, I had more time to practice and I decided to take it up more seriously. I put a net up in the yard and hit balls and got lessons. Two years later, in August 2006, my daughter had to go to work at 8 a.m. I said I’m going to take a quick spin and I’ll be back in 20 minutes. I went in this park behind my house and flipped over a bridge. My back hit a log and it snapped my back in half. I knew paralyzed, but I wanted to figure out a way to keep golfing. I completed rehab in October 2006 and was playing by next spring. My family fundraised to get me a SoloRider cart, and without it, there’s no way I would’ve gotten back into it.
Why has the game remained so important to you?
It’s the one sport I can independently do and play with my friends. Nobody has to pull out the kayak or handcycle for me. Sometimes people tee me up or mark my ball, I can do these things myself. I don’t like people to tell me that I’m in inspiration, but I think I am, and I think they love seeing people with disabilities out there.
What’s your best score?
My low 18-hole score at Berkshire Hills was 85, but that was when I was 50. When I turned 50, I shot two 85s, an 87 and an 89, and then it never happened again. Then I got into the low 90s, but it’s a hard course. When I play at Mangrove Bay in Florida, I should be breaking 90. I don’t have quite the same distance now that I’m in my 60s.
What does it mean to you to get to play in the US Adaptive Open?
I thought it was important to be part of it if I qualified so that somebody like me was represented. I think it’s a good challenge to focus on getting my game better. I’m a little nervous. I just want to play well. It’s a real motivator for me to get out there and practice and get more familiar with the Rules.
What’s your message to other athletes with disabilities?
Just keep moving. Don’t stop because I think that’s a problem where people get in a deep depression. Some get back on the horse, but a lot aren’t able to. I thought the worst thing that could happen to an athlete is become paralyzed, but that wasn’t true. You can do the things you’ve done before, even if they’re changed a little bit.