Single-seater carts give disabled players a shot
Tim Johnson, Staff Writer The Daily Nonpareil Online - September 14, 2006

Staff photo/Tim Johnson -
Barry Ridout gets ready to tee off
from a Solo Rider one-person
golf cart Wednesday at
Shoreline Golf Course in Carter Lake.

CARTER LAKE - "I've golfed all my life."

But enjoying the sport became difficult for Barry Ridout of LaVista, Neb., after he suffered a spinal cord injury in 1988 as a result of a high school accident.

"Since I had the accident, it's been harder to get access to courses," he said.

In addition, his wheelchair didn't work very well as a golf cart.

"I had to push myself through the course, which was exhausting," he said.

Ridout turned his game around after he signed up for Back 2 Swing, a golf program offered by the Alegent Health Immanuel Rehabilitation Center's Recreational Therapy Department.

Participants, who have suffered spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, brain aneurysms, strokes and other disabling conditions, attend monthly clinics April through October at Shoreline Golf Course, where they can hit balls at the driving range, try out adaptive equipment and receive instruction from Bill Jacobsen, assistant golf pro at Shoreline, said Gena Munson, recreational therapist at Immanuel and coordinator of the program.

He found out about a special single-person golf cart placed at Shoreline by the Immanuel Rehab Center. The cart has wide tires that reduce weight per square inch and allow the vehicle to be driven on greens. Its seat swivels and elevates so he can get in a better position to hit the ball directly from the cart, she said.

Immanuel has placed similar carts at Eagle Hills Golf Course, Tara Hills Golf Course, Benson and Miller Park. The carts were purchased with the help of a grant from the PGA Growth of the Game program.

Ridout appreciates the opportunity to use the equipment and did so again Wednesday during the fourth annual Back 2 Swing Golf Tournament at Shoreline.

"I'm just glad to be able to get back out and hit the courses again," he said.

He is also the recipient of the Victories Award, an honor given out to individuals whose spirit and determination have enabled them to overcome their disabling injury/illness. Because of his injury, he wasn't able to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer/firefighter, but he has gone on to become a CAD technician for a local engineering firm, has a wife, a 2 1/2-year-old daughter and another on the way.

Immanuel hopes to expand accessibility at area golf courses by purchasing more carts with the help of a matching grant from the USGA, Munson said. So far, organizers have raised $7,500 of the $9,750 needed in matching funds. The total will help purchase several more single-rider carts, she said.

"We would be able to purchase at least three, if not four, depending on the vendor and cart - which would be wonderful," she said.