Project GAIN gets disabled people out on the greens

The game of golf is enabling people with disabilities to become more involved in the community.

The U College of Health’s Project Golf: Accessible and Inclusive Network encourages people with disabilities to participate in events such as statewide putting championships and the Zevex Celebrity Challenge and to get lessons from PGA professionals.

“It’s more than just golf,” said U professor and Project GAIN co-founder and director David Compton. “The program is meant to promote social inclusion. We’ve seen participants increase their self-confidence by succeeding in a game that is so difficult,” he said.

Andy Lamb, 16, has participated in the project for the past year. Lamb went from hitting the ball 20 feet to 150 yards.

“[Golf] was something I could actually do,” Lamb said. “I started to get a little depressed, and [playing golf] made me feel good about myself.”

Lamb said his dad loved golf and it might be a fun sport to try. “It’s not just about golfing,” he said. “It’s also about getting stronger and having fun with family and friends and being a part of it.”

Project GAIN was recently named the state’s model program by the Utah Recreation and Parks Association.

The annual award honors innovative parks and recreation programs. The project is starting its second year. It began in Salt Lake City and is part of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf, which includes programs in Baltimore, Chicago, and Sacramento, Calif., and Toledo, Ohio.

Compton said he was inspired to start the program by the love of the game and by a conflicting access problem for disabled people to use golf courses.

“The conflict was leading to litigation,” Compton said. So far, the program has had 125 golfers with 45 different types of disabilities.

PGA professional and instructor Richard Robinson said there is a tenacity about disabled golfers he has never seen. “[The project] has been able to bring families together,” Robinson said.

The project also includes fund-raising activities and hires students for paid internships during the summer.

“We’d love to have our student body involved,” Compton said.

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