PGA Professionals and industry professionals are advancing their education through a series of informative seminars at the 70th PGA Show this week. Taught by influential, national experts from the world of business, golf operations, teaching and coaching, and retail, the PGA Education Conference at the Orange County Convention Center has been a haven for learning and career building.
Among Thursday’s Education Conference seminars was “Adaptive Golf and the Joy It Can Bring,” presented by Dennis Walters, who was named an Honorary member of the PGA of America in 1994 and received the PGA’s highest honor in 2008 when he earned the PGA Distinguished Award.
In 1974, Walters was riding in an old-style, three-wheel golf cart down a steep hill in New Jersey when the brakes failed. Walters was thrown from the cart and suffered severe spinal cord damage. Walters was diagnosed as a T-12 level paraplegic at the hospital in Morristown, New Jersey and told he would never walk again. That made playing golf highly unlikely, but at age 24, Walters was determined to never give up the game he loved. After four months of in the hospital and five months of rehabilitation, Walters went home. Working with his father and a couple of friends, Walters outfitted a seat on the side of a golf cart that would pivot 90 degrees.
“That first attempt to play golf sitting on the side of my new cart was pretty outrageous,” recalled Walters. “But we kept working on a pivoting seat and I learned how to hit a number of shots from the sitting position or leaning on the side of my cart. I was improvising with everything I tried, just winging it to see what worked or didn’t work.”
Today, Walters has overcome his handicap magnanimously and travels the world performing trick-shot clinics at Tour stops and other golf events. “I had a dream of playing the PGA Tour when I was young,” says Walters. “That dream was taken from me, but I have turned golf into my career anyway through adaptive golf. I never gave up on myself and neither did those closest to me when it looked pretty bleak after the accident. It’s funny how new doors have opened when my dream door closed so many years ago.”
The PGA Education Conference at the PGA Show continues Friday with several interesting seminars. PGA Professional Dr. Chris Cain tees up “Fostering Leadership Through Golf’s Rebirth” at 10 a.m. in Room W103 at the Orange County Convention Center, Mike Loustalot, Chip Hierlihy, PGA, Dr. Jim Butler, PGA, Eric Lohman, PGA, and Rob Oosterhuis, PGA, will present “Learn From the Pros and Jump-Start 2023 at 10 a.m. in Room W101. Also at 10 a.m. in W102, PGA Professional Tim Cusick will discuss “The 10 Mistakes Instructors Make During Lessons.”
At 11 a.m. Friday, PGA Professional Christopher Smith will present “Everything You Need to Know About Effective and High-Performance Teaching and Coaching You Learned From Caddyshack” in Room W102. Dr. Barbara Palmer will also conduct “Thrive or Survive” at 11 a.m. in Room W101.