Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cyber Golfer Takes Long Road to Title

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cyber Golfer Takes Long Road to Title

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union sports columnist

ST. AUGUSTINE -- The wind was blowing at Oakmont Country Club. The greens were slick. And the pin placement was brutal.

This was, after all, the final round.

Of a computer tournament.

Before you start snickering, allow me to toss out a few figures: 22,000 cyber-golfers participated in the second annual Qwest Virtual Golf Association Tour season, the field was narrowed to four finalists, and they ended up coming to the World Golf Village this week from as far away as England to compete for a grand prize of $50,000.

Thought that last figure might catch your eye.

Yes, kids, the next time mom tries to pry the mouse out of your hand and get you to go outside and play, just tell her you want be the next Paul Willey.

Yesterday, the 38-year-old father of two from Palmyra, Maine, defended his title, beating Bill Crouch, 5 and 3, in front of about two dozen fans. Yes, there were fans. Some were family members. But some were just virtual competitors, hoping to get a few tips from the guy the VGA Tour bills as "the Tiger Woods of online golf."

Here's the crazy part about it: That title doesn't really do him justice.

If you're looking for sports inspiration these holidays, you'll be hard pressed to top the Casey-Martin-meets-Bill-Gates story of a guy who developed multiple sclerosis, became confined to a wheelchair, got hooked on virtual golf, then decided to give the real thing a try and, despite playing in excruciating pain, managed to hit 200-yard drives, drop his handicap to 19.9 and win club trophies.

Let's start at the beginning. He was 29 years old and in the Army, repairing military intelligence equipment, when he first felt the pain.

"It felt like someone was taking an extension cord and, with the bare wires, sticking them on the back of my arm," he said. …

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