Paraplegic golfer shows how to persevere
August 23, 2002
There’s something to be said for sheer cussedness.
The personality trait has its risks, however.
The stubborn pursuit of one’s dreams can make a person less than complete, because he or she can lose all sense of proportion. The individual drive toward a personal goal can also sweep up an entire family and cause serious disruption and pain.
Sometimes the single-minded chase can be truly inspirational, while recognizing the sacrifices made not only by the pursuer of dreams, but his remarkable family as well.
That potential is among the messages imparted by Dennis Walters and James Achenbach in their new book, In My Dreams I Walk With You (Sleeping Bear: $24.95 SRP).
It is a moving memoir of Walters’ journey from promising pro golfer to paraplegic trick shot artist and motivational speaker.
The Dennis Walters Golf Show is an integral part of the traveling clinics run by the Tiger Woods Foundation. He’s also sponsored by many other worthy entities, including the United States Golf Association Foundation.
Walters began his career in golf in typical fashion, as a very good junior golfer with attainable prospects of making it onto the PGA Tour. The soaring trajectory of his life took a hard dive, however, with a simply awful golf cart accident that is set forth here in a dispassionate, matter-of-fact tone.
In Walters’ first-person narrative, he describes the first few hours after the accident, and then lays out the long road to partial recovery, where he eventually learns he will never walk unaided again.
The writers don’t mince words. It’s clear from the story that Walters was not some kind of cheerful lug who accepted his fate with total equanimity. As a person whose whole life was geared toward using his physical skills as his career path, he didn’t take the news of his paralysis well at all. He suffered deep depression episodes, and took out his frustrations on occasion on his supportive parents and sister.
Fortunately for Walters, he was blessed with a truly stunning family. They essentially gave up their daily lives and routines, and devoted their days and nights to the eventual rehabilitation of the young man. Both his physical skills and mental outlook needed much help, and his family was critical to the healing process.
Walters also gives credit to a mix of good friends and professional colleagues who also helped him find a new way to live that continued to focus on his love of golf. Through a fascinating series of events, he learned how to hit a golf ball despite his paralysis. With a herculean effort, he managed to develop a repertoire of trick shots that others could appreciate, leading to his current career as a golf entertainer.
Walters and Achenbach write movingly about the role that pets can play in the rehabilitation and life of the disabled. Walters describes the series of dogs that made his life on the road and at home far more bearable, giving him a welcome respite from loneliness. The Service Dog movement will benefit from Walters’ depiction of the love, devotion, and help provided by his canine companions.
Walters also describes his daily routine, which could be daunting to the fully-abled but which is a simple necessity for him. Relatively simple tasks such as dressing are by no means simple for him. On the other hand, the alternative is clearly worse, and Walters makes that point nicely. Readers with experience in assisting the disabled, as well as those members of the disabled community reading this book, will nod in recognition during these segments.
While golfers may appreciate what tricks Walters can do with a golf ball, the real point of his show is far broader. Dedication and determination to the achievement of one’s goals is the primary message Walters brings to his golf clinic audiences.
With the publication of his memoir, Walters just expanded the reach of his courageous, inspirational story.