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May 29, 2013

‘Fore’ everyone — Foundation brings golf to those with disabilities

By Christian Davis
C & G Staff Writer

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Ryan Miller, of Harrison Township, takes a swing at the “Barrier Breaking Golf” clinic May 16 at Whispering Willows Golf Club in Livonia. The clinic was put on the by the Millman NRG Foundation, which comes up with innovative ways to help golfers with disabilities to continue to play the game. The specialized cart Miller is using is available at a handful of courses in the area, including some metro parks.
Dan Boulter, of Redford, prepares to strike the ball at the “Barrier Breaking Golf” clinic. Boulter lost his right leg in a hunting accident in 2001 but continues to play the game at least once a week.
 

It was just over a year ago, and Scott Millman was heading to an amputee support group in Ann Arbor.

This was his first presentation for the newly formed Millman No Restrictions Golf Foundation, which he established with his wife, Teresa.

The idea of the foundation is to provide access and education to veterans and individuals with disabilities to build and enhance their golf games, and in return, build confidence and offer a social environment. Their motto is “Golf is ‘fore’ everyone.”

“I was really nervous. I walked into the room and one of the guys sitting there was a double above-the-knee amputee, and the first thing he says to me is, ‘Please close the door; my feet are cold.’ It broke the ice. I felt great, and it kind of put things into perspective,” Millman said with a smile. “Since that time, it’s been a different ballgame for me.”

Millman, who is a United States Golf Teachers Federation master golf teaching professional with more than 25 years of experience, teaches through Play Golf 365 in West Bloomfield and Oasis Golf Center in Plymouth. He holds clinics and has partnered with various nonprofit organizations to spread the message.

On May 16, the Farmington Hills resident was at Whispering Willows Golf Club in Livonia for a clinic called “Barrier Breaking Golf.”

The clinic was also supported by Wright & Filippis’ AmpuTeam, whose stated mission is to offer emotional support, educational information and insight as to what is expected after limb loss.

The day was spent showing golfers that the loss of a limb doesn’t equal the loss of golf.

“That’s why I like doing what I’m doing,” Millman said. “It constantly challenges you as an instructor to be creative — think of new ways to help.”

Help comes in a variety of forms, like a single-rider golf cart, upon which the player can swivel in a chair to hit a shot, or even in the form of some tips from Millman’s watchful eye.

Brad Shebib, a certified prosthetist and rehabilitation specialist with Wright & Filippis, was also on hand.

He said seeing someone do something that they thought was lost forever, like hit a golf shot, is why he loves the job.

“It just gives you such a sense of joy to see people give you a hug or shake your hand, or even just seeing them get up and walk,” Shebib said. “I’ll never take the credit that they want to give me because making the leg is the easy part; it’s them having the mindset and drive to make something out of it.”

Millman believes golf is a perfect tool to build confidence and, from a social aspect, “You’re not going to get anything better.”

“There’s a lot of interaction, and it’s a great way to spend time with your buddies,” he said.

Dan Boulter also attended the event. He lost his right leg below the knee in a hunting accident in 2001.

The Redford resident admits that when he was lying in his hospital bed shortly after the accident, he feared he would never be able to play the game again.

But with hard work and encouragement from his family, he was walking on his prosthetic in three months, beginning the journey to get back out on the course.

“Everything is how I thought it would be, and better. The way they make (prosthetics) now, you can do anything you want. You don’t have to think that you have to be stuck in bed,” he said. “It slowed my swing a lot, because I used to swing really, really hard, but you don’t need to swing that hard to get the ball to go. Other than that, it’s just making up your mind that you’re going to do it.”

Millman said he plans on hosting another clinic in September at Whispering Willows. Until then, the foundation continues to work with its partners to make golf more accessible for everyone.

“I just love teaching, seeing the expression on people’s faces when they hit a golf ball and it goes up against that blue sky, or someone that has never been able to get the ball airborne, but then gets it airborne for the first time. That makes it all worthwhile,” Millman said. “That’s the fun part.”

For Boulter, he said his game is even better than before his accident.

“I’m on the verge of getting under 40, but I have to start sinking some putts,” he said, adding that he consistently shot in the 50s for nine holes prior to 2001.

“It’s not always a straight shot. Sometimes, it’s in the fairway; sometimes, it’s on the edge of the fairway or in the rough,” he continued with a smile. “But that’s just golf.”

For more information on the Millman NRG Foundation, visit www.norestrictionsgolf.org or call (248) 914-0138. For more on Wright & Filippis and the AmpuTeam, visit www.firsttoserve.com or www.amputeam.com.