There were lucky golfers at the tournament at Brierwood Country Club in Hamburg on Monday and some that were a little less lucky – and the luck had nothing to do with the fact that some were playing with prosthetic legs or arms.
No, it was another round of wet weather that dampened the action.
The first group of golfers at the 2013 Buffalo Amputee Golf Classic teed off at 8 a.m. and enjoyed a slight breeze and a dry course.
The second group started at 1 p.m. – almost exactly the moment that the near-drenching rain began.
It would be stretching it to say the good-spirited crowd was pleased with the soggy conditions, but the golfers also didn’t let the weather keep them from enjoying the charity shotgun shamble. A few did express concern about being able to hang on to their clubs, though.
“The rain adds another degree of difficulty. It’s a tough game regardless of your ability,” said Tim Riordan, of Buffalo, who was wearing a golf-specific left arm. His prosthesis is fitted with an attachment that has a flexible “wrist” and a grip for the club.
He doesn’t golf regularly, Riordan said, but he did play in the tournament last year and was eager to come back, joined by Darryl Meyers and Travis Buchanan, both from North Tonawanda and each a single-leg amputee. They were joking about bringing some WD-40 to keep their devices from rusting and said they compare notes about how their prostheses work.
“I like to see what other people are using to golf with,” said Riordan, who also has an arm attachment for bicycling.
Deborah Murphy, who played in the morning round, also enjoyed meeting other amputee athletes and talking about their prosthetic gear. She drove from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, at the urging of tournament founder Peter Fenn, whom she knows through a family member.
“I haven’t golfed in eight years,” Murphy said. “This was my first tournament, but it won’t be my last. I had a blast!”
Her right leg was amputated below the knee 32 years ago, and she said her physical therapist at the time told her that active amputees often could do at least two things – ski and golf. She has kept up with the skiing and expects to be doing more golfing from now on.
She said it was Fenn’s encouragement that brought her here, plus the chance to help support the event’s scholarship fund. Meeting the other players, she said, she found some support of her own.
“I enjoyed the chance to network with other amputees, to talk to people who ‘get’ what happens to you every day,” she said. “I can’t do that at home.”
This was the fifth annual Buffalo Amputee Golf Classic, and it has become the largest tournament of the 18 or so held each year by the Eastern Amputee Golf Association. There were more than 20 amputee players this year from all over the East Coast and about 130 “normies,” mostly from Western New York. Money raised will go toward scholarships for three children of amputees: Brandon Schultz, a past recipient who will be starting his senior year in nursing studies at Trocaire College, and Jillian and Hanna Perillo, whose father, Matt Perillo, was a local high school basketball and football referee and double amputee who died unexpectedly in his sleep June 6.
Jillian is working toward a nursing degree at St. John Fisher College, while Hanna will be a freshman at Daemen College in the fall.
Fenn, the tournament founder whose left leg was amputated six years ago, overcame some recent health setbacks to play Monday for the first time this season. He has Parkinson’s disease and also is recovering from surgeries on his good right knee and foot.
“For him to play today is miraculous,” said his wife, Deborah Fenn.
Talking with him, it’s hard to imagine what it would take to keep him away. He was a golf pro at Brierwood for years and still works with and encourages players. He said he doesn’t notice any stigma connected with players with disabilities.
“My greatest thrill is seeing the awareness in the community about what amputees can do,” Peter Fenn said.
That includes himself.
“My loss is more my gain,” he said. “You do things differently, and think about things differently.”
The tournament’s defending champion, Steve Terpak of Pittsfield, Mass., was evidence of that. He has played in the Buffalo event every year since it started – which was the year of his leg amputation – and he walked the course Monday pulling his golf bag and carrying an umbrella.
Terpak said he hits most of the East Coast tournaments every season and also goes to the national championships, where he has finished about tenth or eleventh in the past.
“My goal is to finish in the top three,” Terpak said, “and then try to win it. That’s the plan: One step at a time.”
On the Web: View a photo gallery of Buffalo Amputee Golf Classic action in Hamburg at BuffaloNews.com/galleries