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Golf: Making everyone able to get around for a round

Golf: Making everyone able to get around for a round

Bob Weiner's golf column
Golf: Making everyone able to get around for a round
Van Patten director of golf Adam Catanzarite with adaptive golfer Mark Boucher.
Photographer: Bob Weiner/For The Daily Gazette

Mark Boucher wants to make life a little easier — and a lot more enjoyable — for physically challenged people much like him, who want to remain active in sports. Adaptive Golf is his passion, and promoting the new Paramobile is his mission.

“I want to make 20 people smile every day. That’s my goal. Everyone who knows me will tell you that’s exactly what I do. I want to help disabled people, vets and people in blue. That’s what my life is all about,” he said.

Wheelchair-bound, Boucher, 62, has battled Multiple Sclerosis for 31 years. He’s been stricken with and beaten cancer several times and suffered a stroke a little more than a year ago, but he’s still loaded with energy and desire to help others. “Most people would roll over if they had all that stuff happen to them. Why me?

Why not me? I used to be a 6 handicap golfer 10 years ago. That’s why we have the Paramobile now,” Boucher said.

The Paramobile is a device much like a mini golf cart, but it’s much more. Once in the device, people can stand up and do all sorts of things they couldn’t imagine doing before, including playing golf, fishing, archery and bocce ball.

Van Patten Golf Course, with Director of Golf Adam Catanzarite leading the way, offers the Paramobile to its disabled players. Catanzarite and Boucher are members of the “Stand Up and Play Foundation,” a volunteer-based organization that promotes adaptive sports and seeks to change the lives of wheelchair users with the use of Paramobile devices. More than 5.6 million Americans are living with a form of paralysis or spinal cord injury from a stroke, MS, an accident or other causes, including injuries from military service.

Van Patten is the only Capital Region course that currently offers the Paramobile on a regular basis. The course has one Paramobile available all the time, and a second one is shared by Sunnyview. Each Paramobile costs roughly $25,000. Paramobiles were invented by a South African S.W.A.T. team member (Anthony Netto) who was injured in Desert Storm. They can go 27 holes on one charge, and they use two German Panzer tank batteries.

“We’ve had between 60 and 70 people try the Paramobile here at Van Patten,” Catanzarite said. “We want to spread the word. I’ve even had able-bodied people try the device, so they can see how it feels. The Paramobiles are extremely popular. My goal, eventually, is to get even more of them.”

Boucher, who has almost no use of his legs and limited use of his right arm, loves the Paramobile and uses it often when he comes to Van Patten. “Van Patten has the only truly accessible golf course for disabled golfers in the Capital Region right now,” Boucher said. “Hopefully, this will motivate other courses. In California, they just mandated that all municipal golf courses have to have at least one Paramobile. The USGA has recognized this device, and it is approved to be used on greens and in bunkers.”

Once in the Paramobile, disabled golfers are strapped in at three different points: legs, seatbelt area and chest. Boucher said the chest-area straps are looser to provide movement. He’s developed that area of his body to the point that he seldom uses the chest straps.

“I can hit the ball about 125 yards off the tee but very straight with my driver,” he said. “You can play golf and have fun, but you can also do so many other things with the Paramobile. What parent — it doesn’t matter whether they are a paraplegic or an amputee — doesn’t want to play pitch and catch with their son or daughter? The Paramobile can help you do that. I would sell my soul to the devil to get people who are on the couch and in the house depressed out and playing sports with the Paramobile.”

Boucher, who is often called “the Vice President of Adaptive Golf,” lives in Ballston Spa and grew up in Mechanicville. He graduated from Mechanicville H.S. in 1974 and still owns four school records in swimming. A businessman who builds homes for veterans and the disabled, he continued to swim competitively at Hudson Valley Community College and at SUNY Brockport, where he was the co-captain of the swim team his senior year in 1978. He received his MBA from University at Albany in 2005 and has taught at three SUNY schools since 2006.

Boucher also sky dives with Adirondack Skydiving, scuba dives with the ProDive Mexico group and even target shoots.

Boucher and several of the Van Patten Golf Course staff offer weekly golf clinics for Adaptive golfers every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. The clinics include lessons on driving, chipping and putting. Free coffee and donuts are available. The program also is free of charge.

For more information on Adaptive Golf and/or the Paramobile, contact Van Patten Golf Course at 518-877-5400, Catanzarite at [email protected] or [email protected] or www.standupandplay.org.

SARATOGA CO. AM NEARS

The Saratoga County Amateur, for residents of Saratoga County, will be held Friday at Eagle Crest Golf Club and Saturday at Saratoga National Golf Club, for those who make the cut.

Entry fee is $65 and includes motorized cart for the first round, prizes and a trophy for the champion. The low 12 in each of the open and senior divisions advances to the second round. In the opening round, play will be in threesomes, beginning at 7:30 a.m. During the second round, tee times begin at 11 a.m.

Defending champions are Thomas Donegan in the open division and Sal Rom­ano, who has won two of the last three titles in the senior division.

General manager Bill Paulsen Jr. has won eight senior division titles, including a streak of seven in a row before Romano snapped it. Jim Gifford has the most open-division victories with four.

For more information, contact Eagle Crest Golf Club Director of Golf John Peterson at 518-877-7082, ext. 229.

CHIP SHOTS

Scott Berliner, a 43-year-old assistant pro at Hiland Golf Club, won his eighth consecutive Northeastern New York PGA Stroke Play Championship this week at Waubeeka Golf Links in Williamstown, Mass. His streak is believed to be the longest for club professionals in PGA of America history.

The SUNY Cobleskill College Foundation will host its 32nd annual Foundation Golf Tournament at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club June 15. Entry fee will be $125 for the four-person scramble tournament and will include breakfast, lunch and an awards/social hour following golf. There will be a 10 a.m. shotgun start.  For more information, call 518-255-5124.

In the New York State Men’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Leatherstocking Golf Club last weekend, the Capital Region tandems of Alex Olbrych with Brian Schlansker and Dave Pallas with Jim Welch finished second two shots back at nine-under-par. In the senior division, Paulsen and eight-time Schenectady Classic champion Jim Mueller also finished second by two shots.

HOLES IN ONE

Paul Szekely aced the par-4, 292-yard fourth hole at Airway Meadows, using a 5-wood.

Tim Potter got a hole in one of the 17th hole at Schenectady Municipal in the Tony Renna league, and Craig Osborne used a 9-iron to ace the 153-yard 13th hole at Fairways of Halfmoon during the Hilltop Bowl Golf Tournament.

EAGLE

Marcel Brisson holed out with a pitching wedge for an eagle on the par-4 seventh hole at Stadium Golf Club.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected] or @BobWeiner58 on Twitter.

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