Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Adapted golf program breaks ground at UA

The University of Alabama has once again proved to be the trailblazer in adapted athletics, becoming the first institution in the country to have a collegiate adapted golf program.

Beginning in the fall, adapted golf will begin practicing and training to compete in several Amputee Golf Association events for the 2013-14 academic year.

Adapted golf, along with wheelchair tennis and para-rowing, began in the spring on a trial basis as a way to expand on Alabama’s successful Adapted Athletics Program.

The program, which was founded in 2003 by Brent Hardin and Margaret Stran, also has teams in women’s and men’s wheelchair basketball.

Hardin, who serves as athletic director of Adapted Athletics, said he hopes the adapted golf team will experience the same level of success the basketball teams and the new tennis team have had.

“It is a beginning, but we are hoping to build something that will be here a long time after I’m gone, that students will always have to enjoy,” Hardin said.

The women’s basketball team has already claimed a three-peat, winning national titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011, while the men’s team brought the title to Tuscaloosa last season. The new tennis team has already notched several wins over the summer, winning matches at the Music City Classic in Nashville, Tenn., and the USTA Geranium Festival Tennis Tournament in McDonough, Ga.

Ford Burttram, who will serve as head coach for the team, is no stranger to Alabama’s adapted athletics program. Burttram spent time as a player and captain for the first three years of the men’s basketball team, as well as spending the past few seasons as an assistant coach to both wheelchair basketball teams.

“It’s the first time I’ve been a head coach of a program, and it’s a little bit different. But it is something I am ready for,” Burttram said. “My goal for the team this year is to get three to 10 players hitting the golf ball, being independent on the golf course and to send at least two players to two tournaments next summer.”

While the adapted department is working with its sponsor, Eagle Sports Chairs, to build specially designed golf chairs that are around $3,000 each, Hardin said they are also working toward buying specialized golf carts that would allow players to navigate on the green or stand up directly over the ball. Those, however, cost more than $20,000 each, but the University is working on grants to help possibly purchase a cart in the future.

The team, which currently has three members, will also be open to any student with a disability. Burttram said even those who do not want to play on the team, but just want to learn to play adapted golf are welcome to join them. All three new sports are accepting members, with tryouts only being held if the team is full, as the basketball teams do.

Every member of both basketball teams are on at least partial scholarships, and the program is looking to help provide scholarships for the three newest sports as well.

“Our student-athletes work just as hard as any other athletes in other athletic programs do, and we want them to get the recognition they deserve,” Burttram said.

Hardin said he believes this is only the beginning for adapted athletics, especially at Alabama.

“When we started the women’s program in 2003, there were only two other programs in the country with wheelchair basketball, and we have had some good growth in that area,” Hardin said. “The SEC is really a leader in wheelchair athletics now, with Alabama, Auburn and the addition of Missouri. We have more than any other conference in terms of adapted athletic teams.”

As the only program of its kind, the adapted golf team will travel to other tournaments around the Southeast, but for now, they can’t bring another athletic title to Tuscaloosa.

“There is no way to have a singles or team national champion yet, since we are the only program in the nation,” Burttram said. “I guess you could say for now, we’re the national champions … I’m just kidding.”

Humor aside, The University of Alabama, with experience on its side, could soon be the first national champion in adapted golf when other universities add the sport.

More to Discover