Jim Martinson steadied his hands on the 3-wood as he concentrated on the golf ball today at American Lake Veterans Golf Course.
The 63-year-old Vietnam War veteran went up on his backswing, head down and eyes on the ball, and stroked a high, smooth shot 100 yards down the middle of the range.
Then, the Puyallup man who lost both his legs to a mine in combat, used the joystick on his specialized chair to lift his body up and down to prepare for his next shot.
Although a relative newcomer to game, he is one of South Sound’s disabled veterans who golf to stay physically healthy, as well as rekindle rivalries and camaraderie with other vets.
They got a 8,400-square-foot gift this month when the golf course, with the help of Friends of American Lake Veterans Golf Course Group, opened the site’s Rehabilitation and Learning center.
The center is part of the group’s effort to expand the veterans course to 18 holes and make it the nation’s first course that’s designed specifically for the rehabilitation of wounded and disabled veterans.
According to Harold Roberts, the group’s president and acting golf pro, the $1.3 million center is more than a simple clubhouse.
There is a separate training with a golf simulator, putting green and a device called the “Explanar,” whch can help vets straighten out their swing. Inside there are conference rooms with flat-screen televisions and leather chairs that offer that new-building smell.
To Roberts, the complex will be unique and provide a golfing haven or local veterans. The group is looking to raise another $3 million to expand the course, which currently offers nine holes. One of the leaders of the expansion effort is golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, who not dedicated his golf course design team to the effort but is also co-chair of the campaign.
Another perk veterans such as Martinson will find is use of specialized carts at no cost. Today, he was using a new cart called a ParaGolfer.
“If feels good,” he said after whacking a few balls on the driving range. “It’s a frustrating sport, but it feels fun.”
As for the cart, Martinson said, “I’ve never been in anything like this. This is great. It’s got all the bells and whistles.”
Read more about this story later today and in Wednesday’s News Tribune.