Challenge Golf program gets players changes back in the swing

Officially, their time on the tee is from 1 to 2:30 pm every Monday at the Tee Zone driving range on Highway 25 in Oakville.

The fact that some of them start arriving hours before that tells you all you really need to know about the Challenge Golf program.

The golfers, many of whom are stroke survivors, love it and for more than just banging balls — although they sure love to do that, too.

“It gets them off the couch,” said longtime organizer Richard Milenski.

“Many of them didn’t think they could do it until they got out there and talked to other people who have similar issues.”

Oakville resident Danny Foran had a stroke in 2012.

“When I came home from the hospital, I thought, ‘what am I going to do now?’” said Foran, who is partially paralyzed on his left side.

“I had played a little golf before but not much.”

Foran’s family researched stroke-survivor programs and found Challenge Golf, which draws players with various physical challenges.

“The first time I tried to hit a ball at the range I almost fell on my face,” he says with a smile. “You see other people doing it and you think, ‘OK, if they can do it so can I.’

“It took me a couple of years to develop but now I can hit it with one arm.”

Foran also loves the social aspect of it and says he’s made a number of good friends in the group.

One of them Kent Stirling, who is another Oakville resident, multiple strokes in 2003.

“I was lying in bed after my stroke thinking that I’d never be able to play golf again but here I am,” he says.

“I used to play golf left-handed but I’ve learned to hit it with my right arm.”

To watch Stirling hit balls is amazing. Many in the group will hit one or two large buckets during their time at Tee Zone. Stirling is known to hit nine or 10 large buckets.

With a machine automatically teeing up the balls for him, Stirling resembles the golf ball hitting machine Iron Byron as he belts ball after ball in a perfect trajectory onto the range.

Challenge Golf has roots that go back to around 1990, when a group that included Larry Armitage got it up and running at Family Golf Oakville, which he owned and operated at Ninth Line and Upper Middle Road.

Around 2013, the Town of Oakville, which owned the property, gave Family Golf Oakville its walking papers and sold the land to developers.

When Armitage couldn’t find the right property to move the business to, he retired.

At about the same time, the Bot Construction Group was building Tee Zone on Highway 25 just north of Highway 407 and invited Challenge Golf to move the operation there. That has been its home ever since.

“We’re very proud that Tee Zone is the home of the Challenge Golf group,” says Grant Fraser who is the director of golf at Tee Zone. “We’ve set aside an area at the north end of our teeing range specifically for them and we provide them with free buckets of balls.

“You can tell by watching them that being outdoors and hitting golf balls is a highlight of the day for them.”

While most of the Challenge golfers just hit balls, some will use the chipping area and putting green to practice those aspects of the game as well.

In addition to providing Challenge Golf with free range balls, Tee Zone also stores their equipment and golf cart.

Milenski says they currently have about 25 participants. Most are stroke survivors although a few have Parkinson’s disease.

He notes that all their current members are from Halton, although he would welcome anyone from Hamilton interested in getting involved.

The program also has about 10 volunteers who help the golfers at the driving range and Milenski notes they can always use more help.

To learn more about Challenge Golf, or to get involved as a golfer or volunteer, visit challengegolfgta.ca.

Whole-in-one: Congrats to Natasha Stasiuk, an Oakville resident who plays out of Heron Point who had rounds of 84 and 82 at Essex Golf and Country Club in Windsor to win her second straight Golf Canada All Abilities Championship. Earlier this summer she won her fourth consecutive Ontario Disability Championship at Woodington Lake Golf Club … The McMaster men’s golf team finished first in the Western Mustangs Invitational at St. Thomas Golf and Country Club. The Marauders were led by rookie Mathew Martel’s 66 and a 72 by Sam Coons … Aces in the area include two at Willow Valley, Sanele Mlotshwa on the 145-yard eighth hole with a nine iron, Henry Hawkins on the 105-yard 15th hole with a pitching wedge and Jim McGreal at Chippewa Creek on the 152-yard ninth hole of the White Hawk nine with a six-hybrid.

.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button
BIELSKO1