Golfers Overcome Disabilities to Compete in Unique Tournament

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David Colwander loves to play golf. He enjoys being on the course and meeting new people. But he doesn't take the game for granted. Years ago, Colwander sustained an injury on a construction site that, combined with undiagnosed diabetes, resulted in the loss of both his legs below the knees. He fought through two-and-a-half years of rehabilitation to get back to the game he loves. "Once I was comfortable with my prosthetics, I attended the next available EAGA (Eastern Amputee Golf Association) First Swing Clinic, and it all started again," Colwander says. He now plays four to six times a year, including competing in Fairfax County Park Authority's (FCPA) Combo Classic, an annual tournament that pairs able-bodied golfers with those who have a physical or cognitive disability.

The first Combo Classic was held in 1990, when Cindy Walsh, then the FCPA's therapeutic recreation coordinator, received a call from a golfer who was a regular at Jefferson Golf Course and a member of EAGA. He asked Walsh if her organization would be interested in hosting one of their tournaments. "My focus was always on mainstreaming, so I told him I would be more interested in a tournament where he could play with his father and friends, and other people with disabilities could do the same," Walsh says.

As FCPA prepares for the 24,h Annual Combo Classic next month, Walsh, now the resources management division director, says she feels incredibly proud. "Every time I hear someone mention the name, I get a big smile on my face. But it's really still in existence because of the great folks who have made a commitment to keep this going, and it's a tribute to EAGA and the golfers who continue to support it every year."

"It was a great idea," says Bob Buck, executive director of EAGA. "For me, it was always the chance to meet a new amputee who was attending and encouraging him or her to continue with golf."

This year, the Combo Classic is being held June 6 and 7 at Twin Lakes Golf Course in Clifton, Virginia. It is the only tournament that pairs able-bodied and disabled golfers in a two-person scramble format. Golfers from up and down the East Coast come for the competition and the camaraderie that the two-day event provides. Pro shop manager Al Karman, who has managed the Combo Classic for more than a decade, praises EAGA for its tremendous help in organizing the tournament and says he is always impressed with the participants. "On one leg, on crutches, they hit the ball, hop around and continue playing. It's really amazing. Boggles my mind the way they hit it right down the middle every time. They could whip my butt."

Peter Furey, manager of FCPA's Golf Enterprises, says, "I've witnessed some amazing golf shots. They are competitors; they want to win. The Combo Classic is an opportunity to catch up with their buddies on how they're doing physically and emotionally. That's a nice thing to see."

John Nicholas, an advocate for adaptive sports, became paraplegic after a fall in 1985. …

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