An adaptive clinic Wednesday in Niagara Falls was just another example of how golf can be for anybody, says Todd Keirstead, founder of ParaGolf Canada.
Keirstead, who is an adaptive golf coach and renowned for his trick shots, hosted a clinic at Legends on the Niagara, along with local para-athlete Chris Garner.
Athletes with a variety of abilities, such as lower paralysis and Cerebral Palsy, attended to either work on specifics of their game, or to be introduced to the sport.
Legends also has a special golf cart called a Solo Rider that allows athletes who are in a wheelchair to be able to golf using hydraulics.
The idea to host such an event came from Garner, a Niagara Falls resident who is involved in several para sports and who was named ParaSport Ontario’s 2020 Male Athlete of the Year.
“I’ve been really excited to start working with Todd,” said Garner, noting Keirstead has been featured on The Golf Channel, ESPN, TMZ and has worked with celebrities raising awareness for golfing with different abilities.
“I met him last year at a couple ParaGolf events and I mentioned that there are other golfers down here I play with, with different abilities, and there weren’t very many learning opportunities down this way for us golfers.”
With Keirstead behind the idea of hosting a clinic, Garner said he started calling different people he plays sledge hockey and other para sports with, who showed an interest in attending such an event.
Keirstead said the hope is to continue to grow the sport of ParaGolf and to run more clinics in 2022.
“This is a brand-new (ParaGolf Canada) initiative. We’ve got groundbreaking initiative from a grassroots development program, like you see here, all the way to a national team, so if ParaGolf was in the Olympics tomorrow, if golf was a sport, we already have Team Canada,” he said.
Keirstead described adaptive golf as taking a golf swing and adapting it to an individual’s needs.
“If you take a look at somebody with Cerebral Palsy that has a hard time functioning with their right hand, we have to adapt the golf swing to make it work for him. If we take a look at a lower-leg amputee, we have to make adapt to a golf swing that works for them. We have a seated position – we have people that are in wheelchairs here that are hitting golf balls,” he said. “Golf is for anybody. It’s just adapting a golf swing to their personal style.”
Keirstead said Wednesday’s clinic was the first in Niagara.
“We’re getting them rolling across the country,” he said, noting Garner is going to run future clinics in Niagara.
Keirstead said about 15 para-athletes registered for Wednesday’s free event through ParaGolfCanada.com.
“I would love to do it on a bi-weekly or even a weekly basis — it all depends on if we have the participation, which it seems like we do, and we have the instructors down here.”
Dean Newton, who plays sledge hockey with Garner, was one of the participants in Wednesday’s clinic.
“We got together last year for a couple games of golf, and he just told me about this clinic, and I figured I would try it out,” said Newton. “It’s great. It’s good for people like us with disabilities. There’s a lot of people out there that don’t know about all the sports (available for people with disabilities), and Chris is a big advocate.”