Innovative Golf Cart Will Help Disabled Players Participate
In National Amputee Championship, Aug. 28-31 in Aurora
CENTENNIAL, COLO (Aug. 28, 2007) - Ask Marty Ebel what his handicap is and he'll say "19," which is the numerical representation of his golfing ability based on the United States Golf Assoc.'s index system. Ebel doesn't think to mention the fact that he is a double AK - above-the-knee amputee.
After watching Ebel boom drives 250 yards off the tee and wield a deft putter, many would wish for a golf game as good as his.
Ebel is one of more than 75 golfers competing in the 59th National Championship of the National Amputee Golf Association, which began Tuesday and continues through Friday at Orchard Valley Golf Club in Aurora, Ill. He'll also be one of several players in the tournament using a specially designed single-rider golf cart during the 54-hole tournament. Without the help of the innovative golf cart manufactured by Centennial, Colo.-based SoloRider, Ebel and the other players might be home watching golf on TV rather than participating.
The SoloRider golf car was engineered with precise weight distribution and a sophisticated suspension system so it doesn't damage the turf when driven onto tees and greens. That reduces the distance golfers like Ebel and Reinhardt Friske, who is coming from Frankfurt, Germany, to participate in the tournament, have to go to get to the next tee or their next shot.
Among its distinctive features, the SoloRider also has a seat that lifts and rotates 350 degrees to put golfers into a hitting position so they can play their shot while seated in the golf car.
Ebel says with the help of his personal SoloRider he's lowered his U.S.G.A. handicap from 30 to 19 in five years. "I'm able to play more shots because I can get to my ball more often now," said Ebel, who lost his legs when a front-end loader flipped while he was doing landscaping at his grandmother's house outside Detroit in 1984. "With the scooter I used to use, every time I'd get in a bunker I had to take an unplayable lie and take a two-stroke penalty."
As commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Ebel enforces employment and public accommodation discrimination claims. He thinks the golf industry should be moving faster to provide better access to the millions of golfers with a physical disability who might play the game.
"It's terrible," Ebel says. "The golf industry has taken the position that it would rather wait to see what it is forced to do from a legal standpoint than to do the right thing without being coerced."
There are now hundreds of SoloRider golf cars at courses across the U.S. They are gaining in popularity not only with disabled players, but also with seniors who are losing mobility and find the car helps them stay in the game.
"There are 46 million disabled Americans, and approximately five million of them are candidates to play golf," said Roger Pretekin, who developed the SoloRider golf car and is now the company's president. "Events like the NAGA Championship demonstrate the opportunity to make golf more accessible and bring the joy of the game back into their lives."