In the early 1960’s, Joel taught himself the game of golf as a sixth grader using an old mismatched set of wooden shafted clubs. He played as often as he could until age 21 when his young family took priority. In 1992, at age 40, Joel was diagnosed with hereditary coronary artery disease. After numerous surgeries he was declared disabled in 1993. Joel picked up golf again in 1994 with the local PGA (Pastor’s Golf Association) for exercise and social stimulation. A member for a dozen years at a local golf course, he progressed to consistently scoring in the low to mid 80’s, with an occasional high 70’s as well as low 90’s. In July 2011 Joel underwent a successful second open-heart surgery where an artery from each forearm was used. During recovery he developed compartment syndrome in both forearms resulting in the loss of all of the forearm muscles and the eventual amputation of his dominant right hand and wrist. His left hand and wrist had no movement or touch leaving a numb feeling. A small group of dedicated volunteers kept his fingers flexible until the gracilis muscle from Joel’s inside right thigh could be transplanted into his left forearm during a surgical procedure in April of 2012. Joel’s index finger began to move ever so slightly, without assistance, five months later. With the help of occupational therapy, Joel has regained some limited left and wrist use, although the pins in the thumb of his left hand prevent him from bending the knuckle.
One Monday morning, this season Joel and his wife, Georgia, stopped in the pro shop and introduced themselves. Joel said had did some extensive research on my teaching golfers who were physically challenged. He had mentioned he had been on our website and learned of my working with my friend, Wayne, who has two prostatic arms and others like him. His wife asked me if there was any way that I could assist him in re learning the game of Golf. We together sorted through some of his physical limitations and assest his range of motion. I knew this would be one of my most difficult undertakings. I promised Joel that if there was a way we could connect him to the golf club that I could get him to hit the ball. Although I have developed an adaptive device for holding the golf club, it did not seem to work with the right arm prostatic. So we made a special prototype club that was longer and used a spacer that was about three inches that would go over the grip allowing him to hold the club without pinching the fingers of his left hand. For the left arm we used one of our Bob Burns No Bananas glove that has a special loop that slips around the butt end of the grip, and prevents the club coming loose during the swing.
With the newest adaptation the holding fixture is made from a piece of aluminum pipe, with a PVC liner. A flexible piece of hose attaches to a spring for tension and is screwed into the prosthetic right arm. Using the Bob Burns glove on the left hand Joel then slips the loop over the grip which helps him maintain the connection with the club. With this new fixture the spring actually allows Joel to have some wrist cock that was not possible before. Joel now seems to be making more consistent contact with the ball. This allows him to hit the ball more consistently straighter and surprisingly the spring effect has increased Joel’s distance. This continues to be a work in progress as Joel and I continue to work at least once or twice a week.