Overcoming obstacles for amputee long drive contest

Brendon Jacks during the local qualifier for the Amputee Long Drive Championships.

Brendon Jacks made sure to slightly turn out his left leg as he addressed the golf ball at Krank Golf in Tempe, Ariz.

He moved his body weight back and swiftly returned it to the metal rod that worked as a prosthetic leg – that rod supported a swing with enough force to hit the ball 208 mph.

Jacks never thought about competing in long-drive competitions, but his showing at Krank Golf was enough to quickly get him involved.

Jacks, who went on to hit a ball 399 yards in local qualifying for the World Long Drive Championship, is among a field of 13 golfers looking to crush the ball at Tennessee National Golf Course July 18-19.

The common thread among the golfers: the ability to overcome a major obstacle.

Jacks won’t be participating in a typical long drive contest, but the Amputee Long Drive Championships.

“The main goal of the event is to focus on individuals overcoming challenges and to showcase innovators and how they’re helping people,” said Dean Jarvis, the man behind the event. “It’s always amazed me to see the determination and skill level at [amputee golf] events. I wanted other people to be able to see what I had the opportunity to see up close.”

Jarvis, an above-the-knee amputee, was inspired to start the event after hearing that the Paralympics would not be following the Olympics’ lead in adding golf as a sport.

The event will feature long-drive competitions, a special presentation by three-time U.S. Blind Golf Association national champion David Meador and an innovation and technology exhibit.

Highlights from the field include: Jacks; Josh Williams, a two-time Canadian amputee champ; and Saul Bosquez, the founding member of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team.

The innovation and technology helps serve part of Jarvis’ mission – improving the lives of amputees.

“It’s especially important since more and more wounded warriors are coming home and their bodies are not completely intact,” Jarvis said. “We’ve got to do a better job in improving prosthetics and putting people’s lives back together.”

Aiding that mission is teenager Easton LaChappelle, who has created a mind-controlled prosthetic arm. He’s drawn interest from NASA and the White House for his innovation, and he’ll be at Tennessee National.

Proceeds from the event will go toward the Jordan Thomas Foundation, an organization that provides prostheses for children.

But the goal of the event goes beyond writing a check or showcasing medical advancements – Jarvis, Jacks and Meador want to reach out to others.

“It’s to open people’s eyes. Life goes on and just because we’re unable to do some things, does not mean we are unable to do all things,” said Meador, this year’s recipient of the Ben Hogan Award for staying active despite having a handicap. “We all have limitations and we ought to give more credit to those limitations because, those limitations force us to focus.”

Said Jacks: “I just want people to know that no matter what your disability is – whether it was self-inflicted or you were born with it – you’ve got to keep going. There’s no other option.

“What’s life without trying to achieve what you want to achieve.”

This is the first Amputee Long Drive Championship, but Jarvis has bigger plans for the future.

Jarvis said that he has met with officials from Mesquite, Nev., about hosting an event early next year. He also hopes to partner with the National Amputee Golf Association to couple long-driving events with the NAGA’s regular events.

With more exposure, Jarvis knows more heads will be turned.

Just like they were at Krank Golf when Jacks bombed a drive into the simulator.

Just like they will be July 18 when leg amputees, arm amputees and blind golfers prove they can overcome those obstacles.

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