It was a chance meeting that changed everything about the way Douglas Shirakura saw the world of disabled golfers.
Born in 2002 with an amniotic band wrapped around his right leg, forcing doctors to amputate him below the knee, Shirakura quickly fell in love with golf. For most of his young life he was perfectly content to play junior tournaments with guys with no apparent impairments. He then began to move to amputee events in middle school, and the first tournament took place at Richter Park Golf Course in Danbury, Conn. Before a practice round, he saw an older man with a prosthetic leg, which looked like a nice hammock.
An outgoing type, Shirakura looked for the man and introduced himself. He asked if the golfer was preparing for the upcoming amputee event. “No,” the golfer told him. “I play here a lot right now.”
In those few moments, something about Shirakura impressed the other golfer. The child had an old-soul quality and a clear curiosity about sports. Therefore, Ken Green gave his contact information to Shirakura and told him that he could get in touch at any time.
Upon his return to the clubhouse, Shirakura’s close friend asked him about the boy, and Douglas revealed the name.
“Ken Green!” said the other boy. “That guy used to play on the PGA Tour!”
A quick Google check confirmed this. Douglas without hesitation supported a man who won five PGA Tour titles and played for the American side in the 1989 Ryder Cup. As they dug a little deeper, they discovered that Green’s life was filled with agonizing setbacks: mental illness, the death of a son from an overdose, and an RV accident in 2009 that claimed the life of Kane’s brother, Billy; his girlfriend, Jean Hodgin; And his adorable dog, Nip. Injuries from the accident resulted in the amputation of Greene’s left leg, and he made it his goal to be an example of a man overcoming disastrous situations.
Shirakura later moved up to Green, and they played golf together twice. It was on those occasions that the boy understood that the game had more to him than he had ever realized.
“One of the main reasons I stuck with friendly golf is because when I first played with him, he shot like a 67 or 68, and it blew me away,” Shirakura recently recalled. “I didn’t think such a score was possible [for an amputee], To be where he was at the time, whatever happened to him, and still be able to play good golf. I thought, ‘Man, I can do that too.’ It showed me the future, what exactly I can do if I commit to it. ,
The two haven’t seen each other in a few years, but their lives will be reunited in the most satisfying way possible in the coming days in North Carolina. Shirakura, 19, and Green, 63, first qualified for the US Adaptive Open, which will be played Monday through Wednesday at the No. 6 course at Pinehurst Resort. And, yes, they’ll be competing in the event’s largest division of 27 players with leg impairments.
Organized by the USGA, this first adaptive tournament featured a total of 96 golfers—78 men and 18 women—spread over eight divisions of loss. There will be people who are playing without limbs, while others are blind, autistic, short in stature or have neurological problems.
John Bodenhammer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships, said, “We are confident this effort will foster participation for golfers with disabilities and hopefully it will help others in the industry to make the sport and its competitions more welcoming to all.” will inspire.” The event was announced last winter.
Shirakura, who studied aerospace engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, holds a 1.2 index and enters the U.S. Adaptive Golf Alliance’s ranking at No. 1 in the G2 Sport category for golfers with the loss of a lower leg. Huh. He is a member of Nike’s recently formed adaptive golf team. Greene, who spends most of the year in West Palm Beach, Fla., is not a regular on the adaptive circuit, but has reached the Adaptive Open through his 0.5 index. He’s had some formidable competition in the 54-hole event, plus indexes with eight leg loss competitors.
“It’s going to be competitive and we’re going to have to gnash our tails,” said Green, who last played professionally at the 2019 Senior PGA Championship. “But this will be the first event you’ll ever play that even if you’re second, fifth or seventh, you’re going to smile back. You’ve got an edge in life and that’s life. It’s a home race. “
Green vividly remembers meeting Shirakura for the first time at Richter Park and the impact he had made. “You can tell the difference between kids and adults by how much they love golf,” Green said. “Only by listening to them; How much do they talk about their period; How they talk about their shots. Some people like golf, but they don’t love the sport. He definitely loved the game. ,
First impressions of Shirakura’s green: “I was completely impressed by his ability and his touch. You can tell he was a professional player. The way he plays is very different from anything else I had seen at the time. ,
Green sought advice from the young man about more than the golf swing. ,[Shirakura] Golf has general challenges because most golfers are terrible at thinking about golf courses,” he said. “Now, he’s got a second negative, with the fact that he’s losing a leg. He has to try and learn to work his way around the golf course. There are some shots you’ll never be able to hit. … you have to consider them, because you’re not going to outgrow them.”
It is appropriate for Green to talk about overcoming obstacles, as few people in his sport have had to overcome so much tragedy. “Golf has saved my life many times,” Green said. Beyond the previously mentioned troubles, Greene reveals a deeper secret in her 2019 book, Golf Digest excerpt, about the sexual assaults committed on her by a group of men after her family was 11 in Honduras. In. Deported back to America by his father, but only after Green beat one of his attackers with a rock while the man fell asleep.
Then, a year ago, Green was finally given a diagnosis for excruciating pain in the right side of his body after an RV accident. He said his condition is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which involves abnormal inflammation and nerve dysfunction that, in the worst case, can cause its victims to experience terrible pain even with the slightest touch or movement. According to the Mayo Clinic, CRPS often follows a traumatic injury to the body, but can go on for years without being properly diagnosed.
Green said there have been days when he could only curl up on the couch with his three German Shepherds and try not to move much. “That’s the good thing about shepherds,” he said. “They like to be hugged.”
Greene has had several surgeries since the accident and recently found some relief, when she spent 14 weeks at the Spero Clinic in Fayetteville, Ark. A major feature in the treatment of CRPS. The golfer said that while he was there his own circumstance had come into perspective to see the many young people around the world who were suffering to a much more devastating degree.
“There’s no cure for it,” Green said. “And some of the people I talked to at the clinic said they thought their life was over. The disease has an ugly nickname — ‘suicide’ — because people can’t live with it.”
Greene actually reduced her time in the clinic to prepare for the Adaptive Open, but reports feeling very little pain. And for the first time in a couple of years he said he had full spirit in his right hand. He says he is once again optimistic about moving forward with whatever the future holds.
The US Adaptive Open is the first step in that process, and for a man who played in 25 Majors in 15 years, it would be like nothing that came before. Even when Green achieved his only top-10 spot with a T-7 at the 1988 US Open at the country club.
“To be honest, I really think it’s more important than any Open I’ve played,” Green said. “It’s About Golf” And Life And how golf has saved us all.”
US Adaptive Open info
syllabus: Pinehurst Resort No. 6 Course, Pinehurst, NC
Yardages: Male arm weakness, intellectual impairment, leg weakness, multiple limb amputation, neurological impairment, blue for short stature (6,500 yards). For sight loss of white (6,100 yards) males. Lal (5,100 yards) for men’s sportspersons and women’s arm weakness, intellectual impairment, leg weakness, neurological impairment, visual impairment. Yellow (4,700 yards) Women’s Multiple Limb Empty, for seated players.
Area Structure: A player’s individual handicap index was the primary factor in determining field. Committee selection was used to assure field balance and representation from key demographics. There are 96 players in eight loss categories. Champions in each category as well as overall champions among men and women will be recognized.
Game schedule: 18 holes of stroke are played each day from Monday to Wednesday.
Coverage: There is no live round coverage. Golf Channel will feature packages, features, player interviews and vignettes educating fans about the championship on “Golf Today” (2 p.m. EDT) and “Golf Central” (4-5 p.m. EDT). The trophy ceremony and playoffs (if required) will be shown on “Golf Central” on Wednesday.