These golfers inspire me.
Scott lines up his chip shot just off the green.
“Humbled” and “inspired” are two words at the top of the list that come to mind every time we get to spend time with the athletes involved in some manner with the various adaptive sports programs that come out of the Kentwood Recreation Department. When you watch men and women who could easily spend their time being bitter about the cards life has dealt them, but who would rather celebrate life through their involvement in sports it is humbling. It is also easy to take inspiration from their grit and determination.
And so it was when we spent time with a foursome of golfers on a beautiful summer night at Scott Lake Country Club recently. Well, we started out as a foursome, but two of the players were going a little fast for the rest of the group. Bryan Belson, of Wyoming, and Don Bosker of Grand Rapids were the two who left us in their dust.
Bryan is the sole member of the Tuesday night golfers who walks the course pulling his clubs. He said he likes the extra exercise. Bryan was a golfer in high school – before a drunk driver hit the passenger side of a car Bryan, a junior at the time, was riding in. The impact slammed Bryan under the dash of the destroyed car where rescue personnel almost missed him. He spent almost four weeks in a coma and the doctors offered little hope that he would emerge from it.
“I was a fighter,” Bryan said. “I was determined to come out of it.”
Bryan and his partner Don Bosker were smacking the ball with authority and soon left us behind, but not before we were all treated to some of Dons particular brand of humor. For instance, when asked if he had any side bets with Bryan on the outcome of the match, Don answered by saying, “I’m betting that my ball will go off to one side or the other!”
Cheryl Tiesenga and Scott St Amant were the golfers we spent the most time with. 35 year old Cheryl considers golf a “fun thing to do for the exercise” and loves all kinds of sports. Over the last few years she has been involved in water skiing, horseback riding, and has spent a lot of time on the slopes at Cannonsburg.
She related that when she first started snow skiing almost 15 years ago she used “outriggers” that were little skis attached to the ends of the ski poles. Cheryl assured us that she no longer depended on the outriggers and has been skiing with “regular poles” for quite some time.
“We are really blessed in this community to have so many programs available for people,” according to Cheryl’s mother Donna Tiesenga.
A little later Donna admitted that Cheryl regularly beats her when they play miniature golf together.
Scott St Amant, of Allendale, easily had the biggest driver of any of the golfers at Scott Lake and he was not afraid to swing it with abandon. Playing golf for him might have something to do with family and heritage – it seems that his sister and her husband own and operate a golf course of their own.
As we puttered along in a cart with Donna Tiesenga, the thought that acts of courage can be found almost anywhere struck me. Scott has cerebral palsy and it takes a tremendous effort for him to golf. But he does not let the fact that simply teeing up the ball can take several attempts diminish his desire to participate in the sport and to enjoy his time on the links. Scott is a courageous and inspiring young man.
The athletes are not the only ones involved in the program who can provide inspiration. Everyone involved in adaptive recreation is deserving of our admiration and appreciation. There are the full time paid professionals like Val Romeo who heads the program for Kentwood. She has help from a huge number of people, most of whom are unpaid volunteers.
Melanie Schafer was in charge of the golf outing the night we joined them. She is studying at GVSU to become a certified recreational therapist. Melanie plans on having her degree by the end of next summer and is serving as an intern this summer putting in 300 hours as a “field worker”. Melanie worked in respite care for a center in Lansing where she would provide care for kids with disabilities so their parents could take some time off. People who want to devote their lives and careers to helping others are inspirational.
Parents and other volunteers make most, if not all, of these adaptive sports programs possible. Without them there would be no sports programs. Val Romeo explained that none of the golfers in the summer league can operate a golf cart so that means volunteers are behind the wheel of a host of carts every Tuesday so that Cheryl, Scott, Don, and the others involved can enjoy their time golfing.
Scott Lake Country Club has done a great job of making the sport of golf available to anyone who is interested. The golf carts for the adaptive group are waiting down by parking lot so that none of the golfers have to make the trip up the somewhat steep hill in order to get their carts. The management and staff exhibit an extraordinary sensitivity to the needs of the group from Kentwood. Someone from the Club always makes a point of checking up on the golfers as they make their way around the course. The special effort and attention does not go unnoticed or unappreciated by anyone involved in the program.
The summer league is booked, but the fall league starts September 2 and runs through September 30. The tee time will be 5:45PM. Interested parties can contact Val’s office at 616-656-5270 or you can find out about all the other sports available by going to the City of Kentwood website: http://www.ci.kentwood.mi.us/ and clicking on the Recreation link.
If you ever want your faith in humanity restored or refreshed, then spend some time with the people involved in adaptive sports in our community. From the professionals and volunteers to the athletes themselves, every one of them can serve up examples of inspiration and courage if you take the time to look.