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The U.S. Adaptive Open debuted this week at Pinehurst No. 6 as the USGA launched its effort to showcase the world's best golfers with disabilities.
While the 96 players in the field have been locked in competitively, praising their good shots and lamenting the bad ones, just like Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth would, all of them know that, ultimately, their scores aren't all that will define their weeks. What's also important is the message that these players will send to the world, especially golfers or aspiring golfers with disabilities, by competing in a USGA championship.
Here are 10 must-read quotes from this historic event:
Multiple limb amputee
“You just feel it out here. You feel the spirit and the excitement and the joy and people. This is what is right with golf is exactly this championship. It’s a really privilege for me, and it’s an honor. … For me and the work that we do at my foundation (Jordan Thomas Foundation), I talk to a lot of people on the heels of tragedy, and a lot of people think that if they’ve lost a limb that their life is over. Here’s proof that life isn’t over, and this is living, tangible proof of that. For the USGA to say, hey, adaptive golf is going to become a national championship for us, I think it will propel the game forward in a huge way. And I’m all about it.”
“I just think [this championship] shows anyone who's in similar situations that life is worth living. There's fun, there's competition, there's purpose, and there's fulfillment in doing what you love to do. I think everyone out here has kind of proven that, so if you're sitting on the couch or wherever you are right now and looking at your disability saying, what do I do in life? I can't live the life I want to; no, you can, and if that's golf, we welcome you.”
“I think [this championship] is going to amplify [these players' stories] a lot. The USGA, what they're putting on here is going to be the catalyst of adaptive tournaments in whatever country in the world is going to try to make their tournaments like this now. It's really great. It's phenomenal what USGA is doing, to be able to share all their stories. I know it probably won't be able to share everybody's stories, but the longer they continue to run this, it's going to be just phenomenal. It's going to help spread the word. I saw a young gal out there on the 10th tee who's missing her arm and she was going around getting signatures and autographs. For her to see what the caliber of play is like with guys and girls out here playing and doing this, hopefully she's inspired and she becomes a great golfer growing up. You never know who you can inspire along the way, so you just try your hardest, and this event is going to be spectacular for that.”
“It is incredibly rewarding, and I'm so humbled to be playing with so many people who don't have like a leg or who are impaired as I am. Playing with them gives me so much perspective about how vast our world is and how our community is so vast, and it just makes me feel kind of at home where I can be with people who also understand my struggles, but also we're kind of a big happy family of, we've got this, and we're so supportive of each other, so we're really a really tight-knit community.”
“There are so many adaptive people that don't realize they could have a goal or something to shoot for. I've said that golf is the best game on the planet, whether you're a normal person or an adaptive person. Then if you can start playing, say you're someone from the war in his 20s, in five, ten years you could be here, and before you know you could be winning this thing. A national title is a national title. That's something to be respected and something to shoot for.”
“Just don't give up. For me the hardest thing was acceptance. What was hard is, man, I can't do this, I can't do that. I was pretty active. I played basketball growing up until I broke [my arm]. Then I still tried to play even afterward. It is what it was. I got hurt, and once I accepted it, it was, hey, this is what I've got, I've got to deal with it, and never give up and just work hard at everything you do. Just keep going.”
“It's an honor [to be here]. I can't sum it up any other way. This is a historical event. Just to be a part of it, I feel like a winner already.”
"I think [this championship] is going to be an impetus for more courses to realize that there's disabled players out there that can really golf, and we're not just out there hacking the course up. Maybe they'll make some adjustments and maybe get some carts and make the courses a little more handicapped friendly, disabled friendly. Hopefully it's an impetus for that. But I think it's a great start. I was excited. I thought it's a good starting point, too, for it to become a Paralympic sport. I'm really happy that they did this tournament.”
"You look at everyone here, whether it's one arm, one leg, missing legs, seated players, it's pretty remarkable what they can do. It shows no matter what kind of adversity you have, when you put your mind to something you can achieve probably more than you think you could."
"You look at there's like an 80-year-old in the tournament and there's a guy who plays with his dog. It's really cool. Everyone out here, as the USGA says, has got a story, and it's pretty amazing."