Dennis Walters: My Journey With the Game

Special to the Alliance, Dennis Walters

Photos courtesy of the USGA

When I was eight years old, I fell head over heels in love with the game of golf. This love, which encompassed every fiber of my being from the beginning, continues to fascinate me 58 years later.

I always wanted to see how good I could get at golf and spent all my time doing so. My big dream was to play successfully on the PGA TOUR and I was well on my way as I won three state championships in New Jersey and finished tied for 11th in the 1971 U.S. Amateur. I played college golf at The University of North Texas and competed against many of those who would become some of the best players in the history of the game.

courtesy-of-usgaIn 1974 when I was 24 years old, I was riding in a golf cart going down a steep hill. I wasn’t going fast and honestly don’t what happened, but I was thrown from the cart and dislocated a vertebrae which pinched my spinal cord rendering me a T-12 paraplegic. I have no movement or feeling below the waist. Everyone, including me, thought my golf days were over. The one thing I dearly loved to do so much was taken away from me.

Or was it?

I desperately wanted to play the game again but wondered, “how on earth would I ever be able to do this?” I had no blueprint or guidelines to follow. With the help of my family and a few close friends, I set out on an incredible journey trying to find answers to questions that had never before been asked. I started by hitting golf balls from my wheelchair, then helped invent a swivel seat on the passenger side of a golf cart. This was the breakthrough I needed to get back on the golf course. I wanted to see how good I could get at golf for the second time, this time playing sitting down. I still wanted to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional golfer.

Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. But in losing that dream, I found another one when I developed a golf show called “Golf Lessons and Life Lessons,” which are clinics and trick shot exhibitions. In 39 years, I have spoken to more than 3,000 audiences around the country, telling my story and demonstrating with each shot I hit what is possible if you are willing to work hard and persevere. And most importantly, it shows that golf can truly be a game for all. I encourage all who attend my shows to reach for their dreams, strive for excellence and to do something in their life that they thought was impossible.

In order to convince a disabled person that golf can be a part of their life, you have to first show them that it is even possible. It is also important to highlight the benefits the game has to offer. Just being in the fresh air and sunshine, spending time with your friends and making new friends, and enjoying the challenge is more than ample reason to give golf a try. It’s also something disabled persons can do with able-bodied family and friends.

But how do we share this story with the thousands of disabled persons who have yet to experience the thrill and joy of the game? By creating a campaign that shows people with various disabilities how others in similar situations are able to participate, and developing teaching techniques for the various disabilities. We should also emphasize the importance of a variety of golf experiences. It does not have to be 18 holes to be considered playing golf. Putting, chipping or hitting balls on the range, or even just playing a few holes is all part of the golf experience.

At each of my shows, I always stress the important of perseverance. If for some reason your dream doesn’t work out, get a new dream! Golf has given me dreams I never could have imagined. I believe if we all find ways to share the message of what is possible with others, we could inspire so many people to reach for their dreams.


Photos courtesy of the USGA.

From the Executive Director: A Busy September

I hope everyone is okay on the east coast after Hurricane Matthew passed by.  A lot of damage up and down the east coast especially from North Florida through Carolinas.  And while we are mentioning the hurricane, say some prayers for the people of Haiti.  If you can make a donation for the relief efforts especially there, reach out to the various non-profits helping out such as Save the Children, Samaritan’s Purse, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, and UNICEF, to mention a few.

In our September Blog, wsymposim-panele mentioned about the upcoming Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium that was held on September 20-21, hosted by the NCAA in Indianapolis.  I had the honor of moderating a breakout session on Individuals with dis/Ability in Sports.  It was a great discussion and hopefully becomes a major discussion in future Symposiums.  This year’s Symposium was attended by representative of the various sports organizations such as the NBA, MLB, IOC, Paralympics, PGA of America, USGA, PGA TOUR, along with other organizations and interested individuals.

Also on September 30, October 1-2, I had the privilege to be head rules official for the Special Olympics North America National Championship at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL.  More than 185 Special Olympics Athletes and Unified Partners participated accompanied by coaches and families.  I have been involved with Special Olympics since 1986 and every year I feel so blessed to participate and meet Special Olympics Athletes and everyone involved.  I have always said that all golfers should have the attitude about the game that Special Olympics Athletes have.  If they miss a shot, they don’t fret about it.  They just move on to the next shot.  Ability levels vary from Scott Rohrer from South Carolina who shoots in the 70s for 18 holes to Level 1 Athletes that are involved in a golf skills competition.  But the best part is the hugs and high fives you get from the Athletes on a shot or score.  Truly a great time was had by all.

As we approach the end of the year and especially as we each look towards filing our tax returns for 2016, we ask that you consider supporting the National Alliance for Accessible Golf.  While we do get support from the various golf associations, we are reliant on individual donations as well to provide the grants, promotions/advocacy for golf to be inclusive, and education/training programs around the country.  So consider making a year-end donation to the Alliance by going to our website ( and clicking on the “DONATE” button on the upper right corner of the homepage.  Thank you in advance for considering to support the Alliance.

See you next month!

Steve Jubb, PGA – Executive Director


From the Executive Director: Dis/Ability

I have a question for you.  Do you run a golf instructional program at your facility or in your community?  Take a look at the demographics of the students you teach.  Most likely they are women and men, old and/or young.  They are all individuals with different ability levels.  As such, you probably modify how you deliver the instruction somewhat based on their ability.

Well, have you ever thought about including individuals with dis/Ability?  Have you ever thought about reaching out to the local chapter of Special Olympics, a local rehab facility, or non-profits in your community that serve individuals with dis/Ability?  These groups may have never considered golf as part of their program.  But what we have found out is that a recreation sport such as golf can change lives, just as you have seen on the lesson tee with Mrs. Jones or Mr. Smith that you have instructed and either introduced them to the game or improved their skills.  We have seen it in Special Olympics, programs such as PGA HOPE serving our Veterans, and even the very young in programs such as GOALS which is part of Little Linksters in the Central Florida area.  Our sport (Golf) can make a difference in the lives we touch by engaging them in the sport.

If you have a program serving individuals with dis/Ability, or are thinking about starting a program, or are an individual looking for more information or a program near you, check out the Alliance website at  There on the homepage you will find various links to resources, best practices, videos, and even grant funding to help start or continue an “inclusive” golf program.  Also we have a search engine on our website that allows someone looking for a facility, instruction and program, to connect with a program near them to start in the game or rekindle their love for the game.  If you have a program or do adaptive instruction, we would love to include your program in the search.  If you have a program or adaptive instruction, make sure you go to the homepage and halfway down that page you will find both the search function link but also a link to enter your program information.

In our October Blog, we will be talking about the upcoming Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium being held on September 20-21, hosted by the NCAA.  I have the honor of moderating a panel discussion on Individuals with dis/Ability in Sports.  Also on September 30, October 1-2, Special Olympics North America will conduct their National Championship at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL and the Alliance will be there as well.

So, see you next month!

Steve Jubb, PGA – Executive Director

Profile: Josh Geer & the Cleveland Clinic Akron General Challenge Golf

Special to the Alliance, Lisa Geer

Josh Geer is now 15 years old and golfing on his high school golf team. Josh was born early and has Cerebral Palsy  The cerebral palsy only affects his leg muscles and made his core muscle strength weak. He has had physical therapy all his life and has had one surgery on his legs. Golf has played an important role in his therapy.

The game of golf has increased the strength in his arms, hands, and body core. It has helped Josh shift his weight and increase mobility.

The Challenge Golf program and Ron Tristano have played an important role in Josh’s therapy and his ability to play the game so well. Ron started coaching Josh in 2007 and continues today. Josh participated in the Challenge Golf camps, the Advanced Golfer’s program, and Saturday golf sessions. Ron worked with Josh to overcome his disability and to play the game well. The program and Ron have given Josh a sport he can play competitively, given him the confidence in playing it, and teaching him the etiquette and respect of the game.

Today, Josh is a Freshman in high school and on the JV Golf team. He has played on two varsity matches and came in 4th as a freshman on the last golf match. Josh does have an allowance to use a golf cart but so far has walked all matches. The Challenge Golf Program has given Josh a sport he can play and love. The Program and Ron are reasons why our son has done so well.

Ron Tristano shared “I have had the pleasure of working with Joshua Geer since 2007.   My initial instruction focused on what Josh was able to do not what he could not do. We started with short swings using little lower body movement concentrating on balance and making contact.  Josh showed great courage and determination especially during those early years when he had to have surgery and a significant amount of therapy. He worked hard to learn the game and began participating in our junior golf camps and then in our advanced junior golf where Josh walked nine holes by his choice with the other able bodied youngsters . Now a Freshmen in High School Josh has achieved his goal of making the school golf team. I admire Josh and am proud to be his golf teacher and friend.”

From the Executive Director: All Things Are Possible

Another hot summer in Florida, but hopefully everyone has been able to hit the links, wherever you are.  Whether it is a round with family or friends, or playing in one of the many competitions being conducted around the country, it is still a better day on the golf course than not.

On July 26th was the 26th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Signed into law in 1990 by President George H. Bush, ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities.  As we celebrate the 26th Anniversary, we would hope that each of us takes a look at our facilities, golf courses, and programs to ensure that we are providing access to the game of golf for everyone, especially individuals with disabilities.  On our website under Resources you will find useful toolkits for owners and operators as well as those interested in getting started with golf and links to other resources that will help make this game inclusive.

Recently, referred to us by Alliance Board member Ron Tristano, we made contact with a young lady named Anna Earl and her father Michael from Parkersburg, WV.  As her father explained, in 2005 his wife and he were blessed with a daughter, Anna Earl.  Anna spent the first 6 weeks of her life in NICU.  At 8 months, Anna was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, and since 6 years old, Anna has been playing golf.

This 11 year-old just qualified for the sub-regionals of the Drive, Chip and Putt event.  Anna also plays golf on the US Kids Golf tour.

Back in the Spring of 2016, we had an initial contact with them when Anna was refused use of a golf car during the US Kids Golf events in West Virginia and Ohio.  After we contacted US Kids, a nationwide policy was issued to all of their tournament coordinators to allow youth with disabilities to use a golf car if needed.

My conversation with Anna was truly amazing.  This young lady is grown up in her outlook on life.  Her closing comments to me was that she wants everyone with a disability to know that “all things are possible” especially in golf.

More to come next month so stay tune for the September blog.  Thank you all for reading this blog monthly, and for making sure that golf is inclusive for everyone!

Steve Jubb, PGA, Executive Director


Inclusion in Action: Create an Accessible Golf Program Using Community Networks Associated With Special Populations

Special to the Alliance, Donna H. White, LPGA/ PGA

2016 winter session 2

Donna with two participants (Bob and Dave) at the winter progressive clinic session.

As a concessionaire for three municipal facilities in Palm Beach County, Florida for over 20 years, making golf accessible to all populations is a focal point of my company and career.   We host Special Olympics Golf for the intellectually challenged, the HOPE Patriot program for our veterans and “Progressive Clinics” for persons with a physical challenge. Instructors from our staff also participate in our local PGA section’s partnership with a local Children’s Hospital introducing golf to in-patient kids, a distraction away from their pain and suffering. These programs are examples how the game of golf can be used to connect to those many might consider uninterested in the sport. Participation not only enriches the lives of the students, but their families, friends, and instructors. The intent of this blog is to give you some steps how to start a program targeting golfers who may require special accommodations or needs. I will use our “Progressive Clinics for the Physically Challenged” as an example.

The most essential denominator in developing any program directed for persons with an intellectual or physical challenge is building a relationship with a third or fourth party within your community already associated with these populations. Our “Progressive Clinics” for the physically challenged are 4- week programs conducted two times a year. They consist of student-centered, one-hour sessions introducing the golfer to swing fundamentals, the golf course, and conclude with an application of skills in a competitive 4 – 5 person scramble event. The program is promoted through our local Parks and Recreation Therapeutic Department with support from a local hospital or stand-alone physical therapy center. Steps to success include:

Step 1: Contact the therapeutic recreation department (TR) within your parks system.  Parks and Recreation departments are always looking for ways to provide and enhance opportunities for persons with special needs within their community.  For me, this was a relationship I had developed even before becoming a concessionaire with the County, as a result of my work with Special Olympics.

Step 2:  When developing programs like this, always remember you are the golf professional or the volunteer coach, not a recreation or physical therapist; therefore, develop relationships with a local physical therapy (PT) group or hospital. For our program, I was able network with a Director of Physical Therapy at one of our local hospitals whose sister was an LPGA member…homerun!

Step 3:  Educate yourself in adaptive sport training. You will find teaching persons requiring any accommodation is really no different than teaching a capable student.  Effective teaching requires an individual approach, creativity, adaptation, realistic goal setting, and patience; however, these settings may require a bit more time and repetition for the student to learn. Sound familiar? You do all these things on the lesson tee each and every day regardless of the student or skill level.

Step 4: Curriculum:  no panic! Use the same progressive education curriculum you might have developed for your new golfer or junior program.  If you haven’t created your own program, research curriculums or certified instructors familiar with Get Golf Ready, First Swing, First Tee, or US Kids programs. Another great resource for education and curriculum development is

Step 5: Once you have established relations with those third and fourth party therapists, consult and include them in the curriculum adaptation and instruction. For example, during our Progressive clinics we have a representative from the Therapeutic Recreation Department on hand to assist, as well as a physical therapist from the hospital or another PT agency. Having their professional expertise not only adds credibility to the program buts enables you to stay focused on the golf instruction goals. As team, you work to adapt the golf instruction on an individual basis.

Step 6: Seek, recruit, and train volunteers or interns. Take advantage of the Parks and Recreation volunteer/intern database. Determine how you might work with the volunteer/intern coordinators to recruit volunteers/interns. Train them, and use them!

Step 7: Pricing:  Programs like this can be profitable; however, costs depend on the mission of the club or facility you work. My situation is unique. I am a contracted vendor for Palm Beach County and contractually obligated to provide such programs. It is a team effort. I volunteer my time to teach and the TR Department  promotes, handles the registration, recruitment of PT’s and interns, provides instruction support, charging a nominal  student  fee to cover a goodie bag and rules books. Range balls and any on-course fees are complimentary as well. Not only do these types of programs build a stronger alliance with the County and community, but supports our mission to provide instructional and competitive opportunities for persons of all ages and ability.

To offset costs and make your programs more profitable, seek grants and sponsorships.  Palm Beach County did use grant dollars to purchase adaptive golf cars for three of their facilities. These golf cars are not only available for our programs, but for the public to rent when playing on their own. Currently, the National Alliance for Accessible Golf offers grant opportunities for inclusive programs! Go for it!

Step 8: Student Recruitment:  Piggyback off of all those third/fourth parties you networked with. Ask if they will promote your program through their databases to recruit students. Of course, use your own database or referral list as well. The TR and PT communities are tightly linked. They work closely with extended support groups and associations dedicated to helping those recovering from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, amputation, vision impaired, rehabilitation centers, and even other local physical therapy centers.

Step 9: Once you have determined an interest. Set dates, train staff, and conduct the program.

Step 10: Feedback.  Feedback from students, instructors, RTs and PTs is important. Learn from others to make the next program session even better.

Step 11:  After reading this blog, it’s now time to Get Started. Pick up your phone and begin networking to create your program TODAY! Feel free to contact me at


Donna H. White, LPGA/ PGA, is the Owner Director of Golf Professional Services, Inc., for Okeeheelee Golf Course, Park Ridge Golf Course and the John Prince Golf Learning Center in Palm Beach, FL. She is the Co-founder, Junior Golf Foundation of America and a Professor, Keiser University College of Golf. Donna is the winner of 3 LPGA Tour Titles and has been named one of the Top 50 best women Instructors by Golf Digest and is a Top 50 LPGA T and CP Instructor.She has been honored an LPGA Teaching and Club Professional, Hall of Fame Member. She is involved with the Special Olympics International as Golf Manager and Golf Committee Member. 






From the Executive Director: Inclusive Resources and Programs

It’s July and half the year has gone by. Hope everyone is having a great year, especially to those engaged in making sure the game of golf is inclusive of individuals with disabilities. July 26th is the 26th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Signed into law in 1990 by President George H. Bush, the ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities. As we celebrate the 26th Anniversary, I would hope that each of us takes a look at our facilities, golf courses, and programs to ensure that we are providing access to the game of golf for everyone, especially individuals with disabilities. To that end, the Alliance has created two toolkits that are designed to help both individuals with disabilities get involved in the game of golf but also a resource for golf course operators, owners, managers, golf professionals, golf course superintendents, etc. On our website, you will find these two toolkits under Resources. On our website under Resources you will find not only the toolkits mentioned above, but also links to other resources that will help make this game inclusive. Check it out!


Ms. Yvette Pegues at City Club of Marietta Golf Course.

Recently, the Alliance was involved with a program in the Atlanta, GA, area that used the Get Golf Ready program to engage individuals with disabilities. Ms. Wheelchair International Yvette Pegues and PGA Professional Tim Wilkes were instrumental in coordinating this program. The results were tremendous and the goal is to expand this nationwide. The Atlanta program was featured on Headline News (HLN) and has receive nationwide coverage. Get Golf Ready has been very successful in growing the game and, by now being inclusive of individuals with disabilities, we have the potential to further expand the reach of golf. For more information about the Get Golf Ready Program, go to

Finally, we continue to expand our program search engine at You can find facilities/programs that have adaptive instruction and are accessible. If you have a program or facility offering adaptive instruction and access, please submit your information to add your program.

Thank you all for reading this blog monthly, and for making sure that golf is inclusive for everyone!

Steve Jubb, PGA

Executive Director

National Alliance for Accessible Golf

Profile: Doring Scores Big With Marathon Golf

Imagine playing 100 holes of golf in one day…

Jonathan Doring, a Special Olympics Athlete of Palm Beach County, FL, did just that. And he recorded his first ever birdie that day. As Alliance Board Member Mitch Stump and fellow Marathon Golfer himself shared “He is putting some of us to shame daily.”

This athlete with intellectual disabilities participated in the Seminole Region of Florida CMAA’s Marathon Golf in April. Marathon Golf recruits entrants to tee off at several area courses with pledges made for every hole of golf played. Doring joined 58 marathoners, who participated in the day’s event on 17 teams. All funds raised benefit South Florida charities include Toys for Tots, The Special Olympics, SOS Children’s Villages, The George Snow Scholarship Fund, The Unicorn Children’s Foundation, Florence Fuller Child Development Centers and The First Tee of the Palm Beaches.

 MG 100 holes photo JD and RF 2016

Doring was named the Special Olympics 2015 Florida Athlete of the Year. In his 26 years as a Special Olympics athlete, Jonathan Doring has filled almost every role possible within Special Olympics. Competing in bowling, swimming, tennis, softball and golf, Doring not only won countless medals but also discovered confidence and determination. In his journey through Special Olympics, Doring’s passion for tennis prompted him to undertake a 6-year training that resulted in becoming a provisional Chair Umpire with the United States Tennis Association.  As a result of his determination, he has attended local, area, and state competitions, including attending the Special Olympics World Games twice; once in 2011 as an athlete competing in tennis, and later in 2015 as a tennis official (a distinction owned by fewer than 20 athletes).

As an Athlete Leader for 16 years, Doring not only speaks on behalf of Special Olympics but also helps to shape the Special Olympics experience for others by serving on his local Athlete Input Council and as a representative at Athlete Congress.  In addition to his active lifestyle, Doring has also worked as a Publix Associate since 1998, is a graduate of Santaluces High School in Palm Beach County and also received an Associate of Science Degree in Computer Technology from Palm Beach State College.

One of Doring’s proudest accomplishments occurred in 2015 when after 3 years he earned the Presidential Champions Platinum Award for his outstanding commitment to a healthy and active lifestyle by increasing physical activity and challenging public perceptions about people with intellectual disabilities. In his journey as a Special Olympics athlete Doring has said that “Special Olympics has taught me to set realistic goals and to work hard to attain them.”

From the Executive Director: Vision & Mission

2016 National Golf DayOn May 18, the Alliance attended the golf industry’s annual National Golf Day in Washington, DC.  It is an annual gathering on Capitol Hill to educate members of Congress on issues that are facing our industry.  It was also a great opportunity to share the impact that golf can have on people, especially those individuals with disabilities.  During our time on Capitol Hill, we had a display in the Rayburn Foyer where members of Congress and staffers could stop by and learn more about what we do.  Joining us in the foyer were two programs and past grantees in the Washington, DC area that serves our Wounded Warriors and Veterans with disabilities – the Salute Military Golf Association and Links to Freedom Foundation.  Participants in both programs were on hand to share their stories about how golf has helped them overcome some of the physical as well as mental challenges in their lives.

The following day, on May 19, the Alliance conducted its Spring Board of Director meeting in Alexandria, VA.  A good portion of that day was spent on redefining the vision and mission of the Alliance and setting some goals to achieve over the next year and next five years.  What came out of the session was a more focused vision and mission:

Vision: “The National Alliance for Accessible Golf is the leader in inclusion — working to ensure the opportunity for all individuals with disabilities to play the game of golf.

Mission: “To increase participation of people with disabilities in the game of golf.  Through golf, individuals with disabilities become actively engaged in the social fabric of a community, and derive health benefits that improve the quality of life.”

A good portion of the discussion on May 19 centered on awareness and promotion.  To this end, June 20 to 27 is our annual Alliance Awareness Week.  The Alliance was formed in 2001 and is represented by all of the major organizations in golf, recreation and therapeutic organizations and others who advocate for inclusion.  If you are on social media, help us promote the Alliance by tagging @accessgolf or using the hashtag #inclusion during the week. Here’s a sample message to get you started:

DYK? The National Alliance for Accessible Golf supports inclusion, training and funding, & works to ensure the opportunity for all individuals with disabilities to play the game of golf. #inclusion.

Check out the Alliance at for more information.

Steve Jubb, PGA, Executive Director


Inclusion in Action: Ms. Wheechair International Yvette Pegues

Ms. Wheelchair International Yvette Pegues Learns to Play Golf through Get Golf Ready

KENNESAW, Ga. – Ms. Wheelchair International 2016, Yvette Pegues, is expanding her sports resume by learning to play golf through the Get Golf Ready program.  PGA Professional Tim Wilkes, an adaptive golf specialist, leads the introductory group program for women of all abilities at the PGA TOUR Superstore (Kennesaw, Ga.)  The six-week class began Thursday (May 19).

Pegues was born with a congenital defect at the lower portion of the back of the brain called Arnold-Chiari Malformation, which went undetected for years.  She was diagnosed in 2011 and after undergoing surgery in 2012, her condition worsened and she lost use of her legs.

“I have always been very active and thought that following my surgery, participating in sports would be impossible for me,” Pegues said.  After learning how to play sled hockey and trying horseback riding and snow skiing, I’m looking forward to giving golf a try.  Golf is a sport that allows people of all abilities to learn and play together and I want to inspire others to #LiveForward because life doesn’t end at the point of disability.”

Get Golf Ready is a series of five group golf lessons that concentrate on basic skills, instruction and information on the Rules of Golf, etiquette and values. Participants learn techniques regarding chipping and putting, full swing and bunker play, as well as the fundamental guidelines of use and maintenance of golf equipment, keeping score and navigating the course. Many facilities offer the program starting at $99, although price varies by facility.

“We’ve got a great group of women of all abilities participating in Get Golf Ready, who are able to learn the game together in a fun, nurturing and encouraging environment,” Wilkes said. “One of the greatest things about golf is that it’s a game that can be tailored and adapted to an individual’s abilities. This adaptive Get Golf Ready program is a charge to fellow PGA Professionals that with the right training, they can teach and share their love of the sport to men, women and children of all abilities.”

PGA Professionals nationwide teach students with physical, emotional and developmental disabilities. Accessible golf programs can be found at

Weekly classes began Thursday, May 19 • 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

  • Class 2 – May 26, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Class 3 – June 2, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Class 4 – June 9, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Class 5 – June 16, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Class 6 – On-course experience (Date and Location TBD)

Visit Yvette Pegues’ blog – – to learn more about her Get Golf Ready experience.