Golf is a game of great stories, but few are as inspirational as that of Dennis Walters, a paraplegic for 35 years who hasn't let his disability keep him off the golf course or away from the microphone where he encourages audiences all over the country to "follow your dream."
I had to the pleasure of watching Walters in action as he put on a humorous, uplifting program for two groups of kids, members, and the media at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills. I've seen trick shot demonstrations before, of course, but never one in which the golfer is paralyzed from the waist down. Walters sits on a custom-built golf cart with a swivel seat, yet still belts shot after shot right down the middle of the fairway with everything from a fishing rod to a cell phone.
In between shots, he delivers his message of hope and determination, telling how he overcame the accident that left him paralyzed and kept him off the PGA Tour in 1974. "Everybody needs a dream," he says. When Walters isn't performing, he plays golf several times a week at his home course, hitting full shots from his cart and using crutches to putt one-handed.
Also on the program--and a big hit with kids and grownups alike--is Walters's dog Bucky, who barks the answers to questions from the audience to open the act. Bucky is a terrier mix Walters got from a rescue group in Florida and trained with the same persistence he displayed in overcoming his disability.
There was plenty of corny humor in the show, along with a few golf tips and some spectacular shots including one off the face of his assistant's wrist watch and another through a sheet of flaming newspaper. The highlight of the program, though, came at the end when Walters said, "Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Because you can."
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a romantic thriller about blood diamonds in the Congo