by Tom Cade, Editor; with Clayton Bloemke, USGA P.J. Boatwright Intern
In the upcoming U.S. Adaptive Open, four players from the Pacific Northwest have been selected to play in the inaugural national championship.
The U.S. Adaptive Open is a new national championship, conducted by the United States Golf Association (USGA), that will showcase the world’s best golfers with disabilities, and be held on the No. 6 Course at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, N.C. from July 18-20.
The four players selected are Trevor Arnone of Lewiston, Idaho, age 34 (Short Stature category); Michael Madsen of Meridian, Idaho, 41 (Leg Impairment category); Austin Morris of Bend, Ore., 34 (Arm Impairment category); and Chad Pfeifer of Caldwell, Idaho, 40 (Leg Impairment category).
Overall, the USGA received 299 entries from which to fill the championship’s 96-player field, and the international field includes competitors from 29 states and 12 countries, ranging in age from 15 to 80. A player’s individual Handicap Index was the primary factor in determining the field, with the USGA reserving at least five male player spots and two female player spots per impairment category.
When Morris was five, he became just the fourth person in the world diagnosed with ALPS (Autoimmune Lymphoproliferative Syndrome), which is commonly referred to as “boy in the bubble” disease, and with it came a plethora of life-threatening health complications. In addition, before graduating from high school he suffered three strokes (at ages nine, 11 and 18), and for most of his life has had no feeling in his left hand, arm or leg.
Morris discovered golf at age 12, when through a Make-a-Wish Foundation sponsored trip to a Detroit Red Wings hockey game, he met the goaltender Chris Osgood and asked what he did when not playing hockey, and Osgood replied, “Golf.” Morris was hooked. After high school, he worked at Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond, Ore., and for a while was on the path to become a PGA professional. His home course is Juniper GC in Redmond, Ore., and he plays to a 2 handicap.
“Not being able to feel the club in my left hand, not knowing what my left foot is doing, that’s a real challenge,” says Morris, who had to develop a special grip to hold the club in his lifeless left hand. “And it makes putting really difficult.”
Arnone spent the summers of his youth playing golf from sun-up to sundown at Clarkston (Wash.) Golf and Country Club (now called Red Wolf Golf Club). Playing golf for over 30 years now, he competes regularly in club championships and best-ball tournaments. His home course is Lewiston (Idaho) Golf and Country Club, and plays to a 4.4 Handicap Index. Because of his short stature, his irons are custom-fit, but he plays with a full-length driver. His biggest challenge? “Trying to keep up with my friends’ tee shots!”
Competition is nothing new for Pfeifer. After losing his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq, Pfeifer turned to golf as part of his therapy, and the retired Army corporal and Purple Heart recipient has devoted much of his life to helping others through the game of golf. He has competed on Golf Channel’s “Big Break” series, and was given a sponsor’s exemption to play in the 2015 Albertsons Boise Open, later trying to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour. He won the 2021 U.S. Disabled Open, is a three-time National Amputee Champion, and competed in an exhibition at the PGA TOUR’s Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in January 2022.
Pfeifer founded Moving Foreward, which uses the game of golf to provide education, assistance and motivation to people with disabilities.
Madsen, who didn’t pick up the game until age 20, lost his left leg above the knee due to bone cancer. “It was about 12 ago that I had my leg amputated, and golf was the one thing I could continue to do, so I kept at it,” he says. And he does it quite well, playing to a +0.1 Handicap Index at Shadow Valley Golf Club in Boise. He competes in a lot of amputee tournaments around the country. “I really enjoy being able to connect with other people in the same situation,” he says. “There’s a lot of camaraderie.” Madsen and his wife and three children moved to Boise four years ago, and he works in finance as a money manager.
There is indeed a lot of camaraderie on the golf course, and it will be on full display at this inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open.
About the 2022 U.S. Adaptive Open
The championship will be held July 18-20 on the No. 6 Course at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, N.C. The championship is open to both male and female professional and amateur golfers with a World Handicap System Handicap Index of 36.4 or less and an eligible impairment confirmed by a WR4GD Pass. The impairment categories are as follows:
- Arm Impairment
- Intellectual Impairment
- Leg Impairment
- Multiple Limb Amputee
- Neurological Impairment
- Seated Players
- Short Stature
- Vision Impairment
The championship will be contested over 54 holes of stroke play. Multiple sets of tees will be utilized. Carts will be permitted for all players and caddies. Click here for more information.