Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital golfers get tips from the pros at the BMW Championship
PGA Tour pros Rafa Cabrera Bello and Byeong-Hun (Ben) An offered golfers from the Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital Therapeutic Golf Program one-on-one advice at the BMW Championship Aug. 14.
Several participants in the program, which helps youth and adults with physical disabilities enjoy the game of golf, took part in a clinic with Bello and Hun at the Medinah Country Club on the eve of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
"What exercises help you hit the ball farther?" and "Do you have any good luck rituals?" were just a few of the questions the participants asked the PGA pros as they demonstrated their golf swings at the driving range.
There was learning on both sides as the Marianjoy participants showed the pros how golf can be therapeutic, both physically and socially.
"Golf helps improve a multitude of different skills; eye-hand coordination, balance and core strength," said Stephanie Salentine, MS, OTR/L, manager of rehabilitation services at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, a part of Northwestern Medicine. "It's a great way for people of all abilities to be physically active, engage in meaningful and purposeful activities and socialize with others that hold the same interests."
Once a loquacious salesman, Larry Wells became withdrawn following a stroke. His wife, Sandy, says the golf program helped Larry adjust to his vertigo, but more importantly, the social aspect has lifted his spirits.
"Larry is focused, relaxed and feels confident on the golf course," says Sandy Wells. "Playing golf again is proof there is life after stroke."
The program, led by Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital certified recreational therapists, provides golfers with different abilities to work on their golf games with guidance from physical therapists, occupational therapists, volunteers and PGA pros.
Some patients use adaptive golf clubs which may have a different pitch, angle or shape to meet specific needs.
Once participants are equipped, program facilitators help everyone adapt and master their golf swings and stances. Some golfers need to adjust their swings to their wheelchairs, while others golf with the assistance of a therapist and a gait belt.
Once a therapist has made sure the golfer is staying within their physical limits and not experiencing any discomfort, a PGA pro offers a technical golf perspective. Therapists also will give golfers exercises they can do off the course to improve their performance.
Twenty-seven-year-old Bryan Hendrickson, who has cerebral palsy, has been playing golf for 13 years. Hendrickson's driver, or the "big boy" as he calls it, has a bit more weight to it. His seven iron, five iron and putter are all also custom-made.
"These clubs have made a big difference in my game," said Hendrickson. And the lessons he's learned from the therapists and pros have given him an edge in his friendly competition with his dad. "My dad's always aiming for the trees," joked Hendrickson.
The sense of community and emphasis on mentorship are truly at the heart of the program. Longtime participants welcome new golfers with smiles and upbeat attitudes and share pointers based on their experiences. Some participants may also be having similar life experiences off the course.
Hendrickson cherishes the relationships he's built. "The people," he said. "They're awesome."
To learn more about Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, part of Northwestern Medicine, visit marianjoy.org.