- Golfer Benefits
Back in 2006, Annie Hayes (Berkshire Hills Country Club) was paralyzed from the waist down after a mountain biking accident. But she never lost her drive to play golf and was soon back on the course doing what she enjoys, playing a game where she can be herself.
“I just love the game. I’m basically addicted to it,” said Hayes, who lives in the Berkshire County town of Lee. “It’s just one of those sports you can be independent and play.”
Now Hayes, 59, has the chance to compete in a groundbreaking event for golfers just like her. Hayes will play in the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open, which takes place July 18-20 at Pinehurst No. 6 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. This is the USGA’s 15th championship and will celebrate and showcase the adaptive golf community by providing them the stage to achieve their dreams and compete for a national championship.
The field includes 96 golfers, male and female, who are split into eight impairment categories: Arm Impairment, Leg Impairment, Multiple Limb Amputee, Vision Impairment, Intellectual Impairment, Neurological Impairment, Short Stature and Seated Players.
Hayes will be the lone competitor in the seated division and play the course at 5,100 yards. Her tee time Monday is 9:48 a.m. at Pinehurst, and she’ll tee it up with Maryland’s Jack Bonifant (neurological impairment); Japan’s Masato Koyamada (arm impairment); and Florida’s Kenny Bontz (leg impairment).
“I just want to golf well, and it’s been a real motivator for me to practice,” Hayes said.
Hayes competes using a SoloRider Golf Cart which allows her to rotate to the side and tilt down to play her shot at various lies and putt the ball. For the most part, the rest of the equipment is the same, except all her irons are the same length as her 7 iron because she’s unable to bend her knees.
A competitive athlete all her life, Hayes is also a pretty solid golfer and plays all across the country Her best score at Berkshire Hills is an 85, and even though that was back when she was 50, she can still break 90.
Part of the reason she signed up to compete in the U.S. Adaptive Open was that she hasn’t seen other women who have played golf the way she does and is hoping that this event will inspire other women with a similar disability to play the game, too.
“I know there are some out there, but I don’t know how to find them,” Hayes said. “I wanted to be represented, and maybe I could get some other women out there that this is a game that you can play.”
Now that golf has been reintroduced to the Summer Olympics, Hayes has hope that one day it will be the case for the Paralympic Games.
“I think this is the first step to making it a Paralympic sport,” Hayes said. “It’s a great sport if you’re a paraplegic.”
Television coverage of the Inaugural U.S. AdaptiveOpen at Pinehurst No. 6 will include the opening ceremony, near real-time highlight packages, human interest features, player interviews and short vignettes educating fans about the championship during Golf Today (Noon to 2 p.m. EDT) and Golf Central (4 to 5 p.m. EDT) on Golf Channel from July 18-21. The trophy ceremony and playoff (if necessary) will be shown on Golf Central on Wednesday, July 20.
In addition, the USGA will have in-depth coverage on usga.org that will include live scoring, video highlights, course information, written features, photos and video features, as well as daily highlight packages on its YouTube channel.
Championship Venue: Pinehurst No. 6, Pinehurst, N.C.
Architect: George & Tom Fazio Redesigns and Restoration, Tom Fazio, 2005
Dates of Championship: July 18-20, 2022
Social Hashtag: #USAdaptiveOpen
Field Size: 96
Eligibility: National and international players Male and female players Amateur and professional players All ages
Requirements: Players must have a WR4GD Pass and a Handicap Index®
Format: 54 holes stroke play
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