Some Won't Be Playing Solo Anymore At Claw

By BILL CHASTAIN - Tribune correspondent - May 26, 2005


Santa Claus recently visited The Claw at USF golf course.

And as a result, mobility impaired golfers will now be afforded the opportunity to play a round of golf.

According to Jim Fee, director of golf at The Claw, Santa's visit came approximately three weeks ago when an anonymous donor had delivered to their grounds a unique golf cart known as the SoloRider.

The SoloRider is no insignificant gift since the cost of such a vehicle is $8,000. But what this golf cart allows its passengers to do is worth much more.

The SoloRider is a golf cart equipped with an electric swivel seat that elevates handicapped players from seated to a standing position, enabling them to swing and make shots without leaving the cart.

In other words, physical limitations can be overcome, allowing such players with said limitations to play a round of golf, which includes all of the nice trimmings such as being outdoors, physically doing something, enjoying the companionship of other golfers, perhaps even a beverage of choice and the ability to competitively play a sport. Just because someone gets a bad break physically, doesn't make the desire to compete dissapear.

According to golf industry statistics, there are approximately 1.2 million mobility impaired golfers and others who have health conditions that prevent them from playing golf, such as seniors who take a hiatus from the game during the summer due to the heat, a bum hip or knee.

"The Claw at USF is doing its part to reach out to those golfers and keep to the saying that Golf is a game for a lifetime," Fee said.

The SoloRider got put to good use the second day it became available at The Claw.

"We knew someone who hadn't been able to play and he was able to come out (because of the SoloRider)," Fee said. "I think once the word gets out that we have (the SoloRider) more will gravitate toward here."

SoloRider Management, LLC was established in 1991 right after the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The company was purchased in 2004 by Tampa resident Monroe Berkman.

An avid golfer and polio survivor, Berkman began using the SoloRider after stepping out of a car and breaking his good leg. His personal experience - and the potential for the product - inspired him to purchase the company. The SoloRider is slightly smaller than a standard two-person golf cart. The vehicle's swivel seat is adjustable to many different positions, which allows players to address the ball comfortably. In addition, it is equipped with hand controls, transfer bars - which ease the process of entering or exiting the cart, a front- loaded golf bag carrier and a holder for crutches and/or walkers.

The cart can move across fairways, tees, greens and even sand bunkers, which it is able to manage while applying just 8 pounds of pressure per square inch on the greens when fully loaded with a set of clubs and a 230- pound player, which is less pressure than a 230-pound player produces standing.

The Claw currently just has the one SoloRider available and the rate to use the cart is the same as golfers pay to use the regular two-person golf carts. Fee said he anticipates once more golfers become aware of the SoloRider's availability, the demand will go up.

Thus, he encourages golfers to call in advance to book it for a round.

"We are in hopes at some point of getting another (SoloRider)," Fee said. "The price is up there (for purchasing the cart), so we hope to see the price go down. We wouldn't be able to purchase a fleet of them, but we would hope, over time, to acquire a few more."

Obviously, other visits by Santa would be much appreciated as well for this worthwhile gift that offers a feeling of freedom to the mobility impaired.