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NOW PLAYING: Inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open
Dennis Walters (Scott A. Miller, USGA)
Dennis Walters (Scott A. Miller, USGA)

The inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open, showcasing the world’s best golfers with disabilities, tees off on Monday at Course No. 6 at historic Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, following through on a 2017 pledge by the USGA to establish this championship for the adaptive golf community.

The U.S. Adaptive Open serves as the USGA’s 15th national championship and will be contested over 54 holes of stroke play on Pinehurst No. 6. It is open to males and females, professionals and amateurs, with either physical impairment, sensory impairment (vision), or intellectual impairment, who have a WR4GD Pass as well as an authorized World Handicap System (WHS) Handicap Index®.

A Global Field
The field will consist of 96 players. Further eligibility requirements, field composition and other competitive format details of the U.S. Adaptive Open Championship will be announced at a later date. The application process is expected to open in February.

Last September, the USGA named Pinehurst its first championship anchor site, announcing four additional U.S. Open Championships at the esteemed venue, as well as a commitment to bring other national championships to the property. Pinehurst No. 6 was designed by George & Tom Fazio and opened in 1979. This will be the 11th USGA championship held at Pinehurst, and the first on Course No. 6.

The USGA received 299 entries for the 2022 U.S. Adaptive Open’s 96-player field, and the field includes competitors from 29 states and 12 countries. The championship’s youngest competitor is 15-year-old Sophia Howard from Hudsonville, Mich. Judith Brush, 80, of Alexandria, Va., is the championship's oldest player.

“We are thrilled by the level of interest and support that we’ve received from the adaptive community for the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open,” said John Bodenhamer, chief championships officer for the USGA. “To receive nearly 300 entries from around the world underscores the passion of these athletes who are seeking the opportunity to compete for a national championship.”

Dennis Walters, 72, of Jupiter, Fla., who received the 2018 Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor, will join 11 other golfers who qualified in the seated player impairment category. Walters has turned the tragedy of being paralyzed from the waist down at age 24 from a golf-cart accident into a personal mission to teach golf and life lessons to a worldwide audience.

Amy Bockerstette, 23, of Phoenix, Ariz., who has a close relationship with 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, will compete in the intellectual impairment category. Bockerstette, a disabilities advocate, founded the I Got This Foundation to provide golf instruction, playing opportunities and organized events for people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.

Chris Biggins, the director of player development at the Country Club of Birmingham (Ala.), who was born with cerebral palsy, will compete in the neurological impairment category. The Country Club of Birmingham is the site of the 2022 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, with the championship’s 18-hole final round being contested today.

“Competing in an official USGA championship has been a dream of mine for years and now that dream will be coming to fruition,” said Biggins. “This event will attract the best golfers from around the world to compete on an incredible course, Pinehurst No. 6. It is an honor to compete in this historic event and help pave the way for the growth of disabled golf.”

Inside the Field

Kurtis Barkley, 34, of Canada, who was born with severe scoliosis, began to play golf at 3 years old. He regularly competes on the G4D (Golf for Disabled) Tour, a DP World Tour-sponsored, seven-event tour that utilizes the same courses during the same tournament week. He is one of 15 players in the field with a Handicap Index® better than 0.

Adam Benza, 35, of Hellertown, Pa., lost his leg to Ewing’s sarcoma at age 9. Along with fellow Adaptive Open competitor Chad Pfeifer, Benza started a foundation called Moving Foreward that includes several other highly skilled adaptive golfers. Three-time USGA champion Jordan Spieth, whose parents went to Saucon Valley High School, which is also Benza’s alma mater, made the first contribution.

Chris Biggins, 30, of Birmingham, Ala., was born with cerebral palsy, a disability that affects his legs and lower back. He is a PGA professional who currently works as the director of player development at The Country Club of Birmingham. His +2.8 Handicap Index is one of the best in the field.

Joakim Bjorkman, 32, of Sweden, was born with achondroplasia (short stature) and fell in love with golf while watching Tiger Woods compete during the 2000 Open Championship at St. Andrews. Bjorkman has established himself as a top professional in the disabled ranks, winning 35 titles around the world, including a Swedish Open Championship in 2016, four straight Italian Open Championships from 2015-2018 and a European Championship in 2006.

Amy Bockerstette, 23, of Phoenix, Ariz., who was born with Down syndrome, has a close relationship with 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland. Bockerstette founded the “I Got This” Foundation to provide golf instruction, playing opportunities and organized events for people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. She is also an active participant in LPGA*USGA Girls Golf.

Jack Bonifant, 32, of Kensington, Md., suffered a fractured skull at 6 weeks old that required nine hours of surgery and 10 years of rehabilitation and caused him to lose feeling on the entire left side of his body. Bonifant found inspiration from Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand and pitched for 10 seasons in Major League Baseball. Bonifant earned a first-alternate spot in the 2021 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship with partner Taso Scilaris.

Kenny Bontz, 52, of Parrish, Fla., was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 11, and with Ewing sarcoma in his leg at 19 years old. Bontz underwent six knee replacements in nine years, leading him to choose amputation to get his life back after many years of opioid and alcohol addiction. He is a member of the EDGA (formerly the European Disabled Golf Association).

Erik Bowen, 42, of Oakland, Calif., is a double lower limb amputee, losing his feet due to strep and sepsis complications. He competed in qualifiers and championships for the Colorado Golf Association and Northern California Golf Association before the amputations. This is his first USGA championship. He is currently vice president of finance at Osiris Ventures.

Grace Anne Braxton, 50, of Fredericksburg, Va., is a member of the 2022 class of the Virginia State Golf Association Hall of Fame. At age 8, she became involved in Special Olympics and has competed on the global stage, including finishing second at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. She was a member of Team USA for the 2019 Solheim Diversity Cup and won the 2021 U.S. Disabled Golf Association Women's Championship.

Ryan Brenden, 46, of Pierce, Neb., was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, a complex birth defect in which the upper part of the femur is either malformed or missing, and has worn a prosthesis since age 3. In 2018, he won the inaugural U.S. Disabled Open conducted by the U.S. Disabled Golf Association. His 0.4 Handicap Index is one of the best in the field.

Judi Brush, 80, of Alexandria, Va., was born with a left club foot which resulted in an amputation below the knee. The championship’s oldest competitor, Brush regularly competes in national adaptive tournaments.

Brandon Canesi, 30, of Doral, Fla., is a golf shop supervisor at the Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Born without hands, Brandon designs and builds his own extended golf clubs that allow him to anchor under his arms. In 2022, he was a member of Team USA for The Cairns Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event for golfers with disabilities.

Luke Carroll, 17, of Old Hickory, Tenn., will graduate high school in 2024. At age 10, he was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder of the spinal cord. His great-grandfather, George Stinchcomb, was a golf instructor with Cleveland Metro Parks who shagged balls for Ben Hogan and also made custom golf clubs.

Larry Celano, 53, of Chandler, Ariz., has a spinal cord injury that was sustained after being shot during the 1989 invasion of Panama. Celano regularly competes as a seated competitor with the Veteran Golfers Association in the Combat Wounded Division.

Amanda Cunha, 18, of Kaneohe, Hawaii, graduated from Le Jardin Academy in Kailua, Hawaii, in May and signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Arizona para golf team. In 2021, she was diagnosed with a condition called Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, which greatly impairs central vision, and was legally blind within three months of the onset of symptoms.

Ryan Cutter, 31, of Helena, Mont., is a double amputee and PGA professional who currently works at Green Meadow Country Club in Helena. He graduated from the PGA Golf Management Program at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and received the PGA of America 2020 Youth Player Development Award for the Western Montana chapter.

Mario Dino, 19, of Denver, Colo., was born with a form of cerebral palsy that restricts movements on the left side of his body. He is a member of the University of Redlands men’s golf team. An accomplished golfer at Mullen High School in Denver, Dino competed in the state championship from 2017-20, finishing second and helping his team earn runner-up honors in his senior season.

Spencer Easthope, 40, of Canada, is a corrosion engineer in Alberta, Canada. As a teenager, he was diagnosed with hereditary spastic paraplegia, a rare disorder that causes weakness and stiffness in the leg muscles.

Jesse Florkowski, 32, of Canada, was born without a right arm and is a PGA professional at Connaught Golf Club in Alberta, Canada. Florkowski consistently ranks as the top one-armed unassisted golfer in the world and in the U.S. Adaptive Golf Alliance Men’s G4 Sports Class rankings.

Alex Fourie, 29, of Knoxville, Tenn., is a PGA professional who was born in Ukraine with a cleft lip, cleft palate and one arm. Fourie was adopted from a Ukrainian orphanage at age 7 by South African missionaries who were serving in Alabama, where he picked up the game just days after moving to his new home. Fourie now works in roof sales for a construction company and recently began fundraising to support Ukrainian orphans who have been displaced by Russian attacks.

Billy Fryar, 50, of Bigelow, Ark., was paralyzed from the chest down after being ejected from a truck in a motor vehicle accident. He returned to golf, a game he picked up several years before the accident, when he began teaching his son how to play. This is the first USGA championship for Fryar, who also competed in wheelchair basketball for 18 years. Pat Garrison, 38, of Folsom, Pa., was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months and inherited a love for golf from his parents. A graduate of the Golf Academy of the Carolinas, Garrison began playing at age 6 and now works as a club fitter. He carries a 1.7 Handicap Index and is competing in his second USGA championship, having played in the 2004 U.S. Amateur Public Links.

Ken Green, 63, of West Palm Beach, Fla., is a professional golfer who has played on the PGA Tour, the Nationwide Tour and PGA Tour Champions. He won five PGA Tour events between 1985 and 1989 and played on the 1989 USA Ryder Cup Team. In 2009, he lost his leg in an RV accident, and since has suffered from a nerve disorder known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). In 2008, he began competing on PGA Tour Champions, with his last start coming in 2019.

Annie Hayes, 59, of Lee, Mass., is a librarian who was paralyzed from the waist down in a mountain biking accident at age 44, two years after she took up golf. Nine months after the accident, Hayes was back on the course with the help of a SoloRider cart. She will compete in the seated players category with a 23.7 Handicap Index. Joey Hill, 22, of Tampa, Fla., is playing in his first USGA championship after picking up golf at age 15. Carrying a 2.6 Handicap Index and competing in the intellectual impairment category, Hill is on the autism spectrum, specifically hyperlexia with a severe auditory processing disorder. Hill credits his mother, who is also his coach, for influencing his interest in the game.

Greg Hollingsworth, 53, of Peck, Kan., elected to have his right leg amputated below the knee to end chronic pain resulting from multiple sports injuries and surgeries spanning several years. Hollingsworth was introduced to the game at age 8 by his father and now carries a 0.5 Handicap Index. This is his first USGA championship.

Sophia Howard, 15, of Hudsonville, Mich., is a rising sophomore at Hudsonville High School where she plays competitive golf and softball. Howard, a native of China who was born without a right hand, began playing golf five years ago with her father. She regularly competes in adaptive golf events, and this is her first USGA championship.

Ryanne Jackson, 24, of St. Petersburg, Fla., was diagnosed with scapuloperoneal muscular dystrophy as a college freshman following a decorated high school career in both basketball and golf. She and her two older sisters played college golf after being coached by their father at Northside Christian School, where he continues to lead the golf program. A high school history teacher, Jackson carries a 3.7 Handicap Index and is making her USGA championship debut.

Lucas Jones, 27, of Louisville, Ky., played high school basketball until a diagnosis of Ewing sarcoma prevented him from participating in contact sports. Treatment for the rare bone cancer caused his right leg to grow 3 inches shorter than his left. Jones went on to play golf at Bellarmine University, where he’s now an assistant golf coach. He was introduced to the game by Cooper Musselman, for whom he caddied two years on PGA Tour Canada. He was also coached by Mike Thomas, father of professional golfer Justin Thomas, while growing up.

Sarah Beth Larson, 43, of Green Bay, Wis., was born without a left arm above the elbow due to amniotic band syndrome. After caddying for her husband, Larson picked up golf at age 34, and she now regularly competes in adaptive events, including an invitation to the 2020 Phoenix Cup, an international event.

Simon Seung-min Lee, 25, of Republic of Korea, was diagnosed with a developmental disability with autism and made his mark in 2017 when he earned full membership on the Korea Professional Golfers' Association (KPGA) Tour. Since 2018, he participated in the KPGA Korean Tour and made the cuts at the DB Insurance Promy Open in 2018 and at the SK Telecom Open in 2022. He has also participated in the professional golf tours and qualifying schools in China, Japan and Southeast Asia since 2018 and the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying School in the United States in 2021, as well.

Michael Madsen, 41, of Meridian, Idaho, picked up golf during a two-year religious mission in Orlando and found work on a golf course greenkeeping crew when he returned to Idaho. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his left tibia, and when the cancer returned six years after multiple surgeries, his leg was amputated. An amateur golfer who carries a +0.1 Handicap Index, he is competing in his first USGA championship.

Evan Mathias, 26, of Indianapolis, Ind., was born with congenital defects that led to amputation of both legs at 8 months old. Mathias first picked up a club at age 5 and has been playing since, including on the Marian University golf team from 2014-18. He has won multiple Georgia State Amputee championships and the 2019 ParaLong Drive Cup.

Kim Moore, 41, of Portage, Mich., was born without a right foot, a severely clubbed left foot and a slight case of spina bifida. She played four years of college golf at the University of Indianapolis, where she was ranked in the NCAA Division II top 10 as an individual and was all-conference all four years. She received the first-ever Kim Moore Spirit Award, which was named after her and is given to one female golfer in each of three college divisions who exemplifies perseverance and high character. She also teaches the game as a PGA professional and is the head women’s golf coach at Western Michigan University.

Austin Morris, 34, of Bend, Ore., spent most of his youth in a hospital due to three strokes by the age of 18 and being diagnosed with autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS) and moyamoya disease. His interest in golf began at a young age when he met Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood, who told Morris that he was an avid golfer. Morris began playing with his grandfather soon after and has been playing and working in the game since.

Felix Norrman, 25, of Sweden, was diagnosed at an early age with tyberios sclerosis, a complex and challenging neurological condition. Norrman began practicing golf with his father on the grounds of a local cricket club. He has since competed in many tournaments, including Special Olympics, European Championship for Golfers with Disability and several EDGA events.

Jake Olson, 25, of Huntington Beach, Calif., made history in 2017 at the University of Southern California as the first blind athlete to play in a NCAA football game. He had already developed a love for golf that eventually inspired him to play football in college. Olson graduated from USC in 2018 and continues to play golf competitively. In 2019, he won the United States Blind Golf Association national championship.

Jeremy Poincenot, 32, of Carlsbad, Calif., started playing competitive golf at age 12 but lost his sight suddenly at 19. Poincenot continued playing competitive golf through the United States Blind Golf Association (USBGA) with his father as his guide. Together they have won eight USBGA National Championships, an Australian Blind Open, an Italian Blind Open and two more World Blind Golf Championships. In 2011, Poincenot was honored as the San Diego Hall of Champions Challenged Athlete of the Year. He is also an inspirational speaker who travels the globe sharing his story.

Kipp Popert, 24, of England, has been playing golf since he was 3 years and has become one of the world’s best golfers with a disability. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth and has undergone several surgeries. In May of 2022, Popert won the Golf for the Disabled (G4D) Tour Betfred British Masters. In 2021, he won the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) Hero Open and finished third at the EDGA Dubai Finale.

Tracy Ramin, 50, of Montrose, Mich., is a captain of the U.S. ParaGolf team and has won multiple tournaments, including the 2019 Georgia State Golf Association’s Adaptive Golf Championship, 2018 Missouri Amputee Championship and 2018 Midwest Amputee and Disabled Championship. A below-the-knee amputee, Ramin is the executive director of the National Amputee Golf Association with a goal of having golf included in the Paralympic Games.

Stacey Rice, 59, of Suwanee, Ga., is a former Paralympic Games competitor, having played in the 1988 Games on the volleyball team. A high-above-knee amputee, Rice is competing in her first USGA championship. Her father-in-law founded the Georgia Amputee Golf Tournament, which will be played for the 29th time this year.

Brandon Rowland, 41, of Jackson, Tenn., is a bi-lateral knee amputee, having lost both legs below the knee after being diagnosed with disseminated intervascular coagulation at a young age. While this will be Rowland’s first USGA championship, he has caddied in the U.S. Amateur and in both local and final qualifying for the U.S. Open.

Mandi Sedlak, 42, of Kearney, Neb., is a decorated amateur adaptive athlete who captured the 2016 and 2017 Women’s National Amputee Championship. Sedlak, who had her leg amputated below the knee at age 21, co-founded Women's Orthotics & Prosthetics and Prosthetic Healthcare Services with her husband.

Randy Shack, 38, of Sulphur Springs, Texas, is an amateur competing in the seated player category who was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq. Carrying a 15.3 Handicap Index, Shack credits watching golf with his grandfather as his introduction to the game.

Natasha Stasiuk, 24, of Canada, is one of seven Canadians competing in the inaugural championship. Stasiuk is an amateur competing in the intellectual disability category who carries a 4.1 Handicap Index. She credits renowned golf coach Carrie Vaughn for inspiring her to stay in the game.

Conor Stone, 27, of Ireland, is a professional and the only competitor from Ireland in the inaugural field. Stone was diagnosed with scoliosis as a teenager and underwent a 15-hour operation to have his spine corrected, leaving him almost no rotation or flexibility. He recently competed in the Pas de Calais Paragolf Open on the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) Tour. He also represented Ireland in the European Team Championship for Golfers with Disability.

Jordan Thomas, 33, of Nashville, Tenn., is a double below-the-knee amputee due to a boating accident at age 16. While in the hospital recovering, he started the Jordan Thomas Foundation, a nonprofit that provides prosthetic devices for children. He is an amateur who carries a +1.6 Handicap Index.

Kellie Valentine, 51, of McKean, Pa., lost her arm at age 22 in an automobile accident. Valentine, who is a mental health therapist, recently competed in the 2022 U.S. Disabled Open Championship.

Kevin Valentine, 48, of Winter Garden, Fla., lost his left leg below the knee following a golf career at Oakland University. Valentine is the lead pastor at Kensington Church Orlando as well as the chaplain for the Orlando Magic of the NBA. He has competed in several U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifiers.

by Julia Pine, USGA Director of Championship Communications

ABOUT THE U.S. Adaptive Open Championship

New in 2022, the U.S. Adaptive Open Championship is a 54-hole stroke play championship open to males and females, professionals and amateurs, with either physical impairment, sensory impairment (vision), or intellectual impairment, who have a WR4GD Pass as well as an authorized World Handicap System (WHS) Handicap Index®. The field will consist of 96 players.

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