With high spirits and humor, Southwest Amputee Golf Association players waited out the wet weather Saturday morning as they prepared to tee off for the association’s regional championship at The Hideout Golf Club.
It was not a long wait for the approximately 30 amputees and about 20 non-amputee golfers, who teed off only a few minutes later than scheduled as the rain stopped.
The Southwest Amputee Golf Association Texas Regional Championship, sponsored by Buckmasters and Big Country Ford, continues through today. Brownwood resident Gerald Ledsome, who recently competed in the Second Annual World Disabled Golf Championships in Portland, Ore., is the tournament director.
The Southwest region is considered the center piece for the National Amputee Golf Association with the states of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Louisiana, and Arkansas included. At least nine states are represented at The Hideout.
Some of the money raised by the tournament stays in the local area, helping amputees. A portion of the money goes to the national association to help provide college scholarships for amputees and their children, Ledsome said.
The association has two regional tournaments a year — one in Oklahoma and one in Texas, which is being played at The Hideout, Ledsome said.
Ledsome, who retired from Ledsome Machines in 2008, was born with a portion of his left arm missing. He said he plays golf right-handed and holds the nub of his missing arm against the club.
“The food here is awesome,” Ledsome told another golfer. “Anything they make here is good.”
Jimmy Squire, a Shawnee, Okla. native, has been an amputee for 35 of his 38 years. Squire lost part of his right leg in a lawn mower accident when he was 3. Squire works in maintenance at the Shawnee Country Club Golf Course and began playing golf at age 15.
Also at age 15, Squire became the only high school amputee wrestler in Oklahoma.
Squire said he wants to be a role model for the disabled and for the younger generation.
“It’s a great feeling to be around other amputees and see them participate and just have fun,” Squire said of The Hideout tournament.
Steve Gandy, a retired insurance agent from Van, has been playing golf since the mid-1960s. In 1974, Gandy lost both of his arms in an industrial accident and wears prosthetics.
Gandy has been playing in the amputee association since the mid-1980s. He said he’s playing in The Hideout tournament for the camaraderie.
Gandy explained how he swings a golf club with two prosethic devices for arms, saying “it looks a lot worse that what it is. It’s not a challenge at all.”
The hardest part of golf for Gandy is putting, he said.
Don Rasmussen, a former Brownwood resident and co-founder of the ESPN sports network, is one of the non-amputee players in the tournament. Rasmussen drove from his home in Arizona to play in the tournament.
Rasmussen said Ledsome had asked him to play. “I said ‘Gerald, I’ve got two legs and two arms. I don’t think I’m qualified,’” Rasmussen said.
“He said ‘we want you to play.’”
Rasmussen said he will have traveled 2,000 miles round trip when he gets back home and it’s “well worth the trip to. These guys — fabulous guys. I’m just so glad I’m here for this.”
Rasmussen said Ledsome and Phil Watts, who also played in the tournament, had looked after him after his wife, Beth, died last year.