ParaLong Drive Athletes Grip, Rip in Mesquite

The desert resort town of Mesquite, Nevada hosted the athletes of the ParaLong Drive World Championships – men, women and children who let nothing hold them back.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

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“Let nothing stop you from doing what you love.”

That’s what you’d be looking at if you were to put the theme of the ParaLong Drive World Championships into a simple phrase.

Mesquite, Nevada – a quiet little desert resort town about an hour away from its big sister, Las Vegas – hosted the 2014 ParaLong Drive World Championships and the Amputee Long Drove Championship recently. Hosted by the hotel/casinos and golf courses that offer all of the travel amenities of Vegas joints at less expense, the tournament was open to those with any of a myriad of physical challenges — none of which stop them from enjoying the sports the love.

IMG_6973The sport on this occasion was golf and the simple challenge of hitting that little ball as far and as straight down the range as possible. The devoted athletes in competition might be missing the use of their lower extremities an arm, a hand, a leg, a leg below the knee, both legs below the knee, etc. It made no difference. 

In every case, in every category, the players made use of the latest technology, prosthetics and other aids to grip it and rip it before a modest, but devoted crowd of friends and family that traveled to Mesquite specifically for this unique event.

The technology aiding the golfers varied from partial prosthetics to replace limbs or (in the case of paraplegics) mobile carts that can transport a player anywhere on or off a golf course. Those carts include multi-stage lift chairs that rise up and adjust so a player can get into the most comfortable stance possible for ball striking.

The competition runs in classes so players with the same physical challenges compete against like competition. For example, players missing an arm below the elbow competed against others in the same situation. But, players missing an arm and using a complete prosthetic played against each other separately. And, the competition categories are specific From limb missing below the knee on one leg to limbs missing below the knee on both legs, to one foot, both feet, hand, arm elbow down, both arms elbow down, etc.

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Once the individual category winners wrapped up, there was an overall long drive competition available to all competitions — a sort of exhibition to give supporters one more chance to watch the players do what they love.

And, that was the theme of the day from my perspective. Many spokespeople and supporters of the event offers up speeches and general comments that always included the idea of “…how can we complain about anything in our lives when you see what these people overcome every day…” I found that a little patronizing and off the mark.

I don’t think any of the athletes I saw play during the two day event were out there to show off what they overcame. They didn’t play a sport to inspire anyone else in some vain grab for attention. I couldn’t see any of them — especially The Wounded Warriors competitions who came by their challenges under attacks during military service.

The Long Drivers were out there because they loved being active, playing sports, hitting a golf ball, etc. I believe they’d be out there with or without the adulating of crowds or media attention. They want to get up off their arses and play, just like you and me.

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Double amputee (below the knees) Jared Brentz won this year’s event. It was his third title, and he took it with a drive of 340 yards in the final round to beat Tim Herrmann (334 yards). Considering my drives top out at 310, and I’m considered a pro-distance hitter (though never a pro quality player), those distances would be an endlessly impressive for anyone.

The runaway star of the event had to be 3-year-old Tommy Morrissey – as dedicated and as passionate an athlete as any pro competitor. Possessing only a left arm doesn’t prevent Morrissey from enjoying every moment of his childhood and time on a golf range.

I tried interviewing Tommy, but you try to get a good quote out of a 3-year-old soaking up the attention of hundreds of people. Let’s just say his enthusiasm summed up what the ParaLong Drives are about — enjoying life no matter what it throws at you.