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Golfers with disabilities hope Chesterfield tournament shows accommodations aren’t a hassle

Forest Hills Country Club in Chesterfield is home to the region's first inclusive golf tournament for people with disabilities.
Sarah Fentem
St. Louis Public Radio
Forest Hills Country Club in Chesterfield is home to the region's first inclusive golf tournament for people with disabilities.

A local nonprofit will host the St. Louis region’s first golf tournament for people with disabilities Monday at Forest Hills Country Club in Chesterfield.

The Irons for Inclusion tournament will offer accommodations for people with blindness, limited mobility and other disabilities. Organizers hope it will show that making sports accessible isn’t difficult.

“It’s like how all of society should be — fully inclusive and integrated,” said Lori Becker, chief operating officer at the Starkloff Disability Institute, the nonprofit that is organizing the event. “We wanted to definitely make a statement that we want people to ensure inclusivity, allow people to see what true inclusion really is to demonstrate that people with disabilities are great athletes.”

Athletes from the Disabled Athlete Sports Association, St. Louis Blues Blind Hockey Club, and St. Louis BeepBall League will be playing alongside their friends and families on the links.

Swimmer and Paralympic medalist Colleen Young grew up playing golf. The St. Louis native is the honored athlete at the event, and like Becker, she’s legally blind. Both women use seeing guides to help them play.

“That’s really how I got into golf,” Young said. “My dad would really basically line me up and say, OK, it’s 50 yards out from the hole. So he would basically tell me where to position myself because I can't see where the flag is either… not helping me or anything, just giving me the detail that a normal sighted person would have.”

Golf is a great sport for blind people to play, Becker said.

“Growing up and wanting to play sports, I found out pretty quickly that objects in motion, that were coming towards me like softball, or volleyball or soccer, were not great sports for me,” she said. “So sports that did not involve that input, that involve stationary objects or just running or swimming, things like that were definitely things that I could participate in.”

The tournament will also have a special golf cart that allows people the ability to hit the ball without getting out of the seat, Becker said.

“The adaptive equipment that is used [is] kind of like workplace accommodations,” she said. “That it just allows people an opportunity to participate fully, and alongside non-disabled people.”

Young wants the tournament to show that such accommodations — like having a person on staff who could serve as a sighted guide — aren’t difficult for clubs to put in place.

“It really shows that people with disabilities who need accommodations, that they can be fulfilled,” she said. “You know, it’s not a hassle.”

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.