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The University of Alabama

UA Adds Nation’s First Collegiate Adapted Golf Program

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama Adapted Athletics program has taken another step forward with the creation of the nation’s first collegiate adapted golf program.

Ford Burttram will coach UA's Adapted Golf team.

Ford Burttram will coach UA’s Adapted Golf team.

Home to four national championships in men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball, the Adapted Athletics program now includes wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, para-rowing and adapted golf.

Ford Burttram, head coach and former UA wheelchair basketball standout, competed in the Ray Rice Memorial Golf Tournament in Milledgeville, Ga. July 11-14. The event marked UA’s first competitive event. The team, which will consist of three players when the fall semester begins, will compete in select Amputee Golf Association events for the 2013-14 school year.

The genesis of UA’s adapted golf program is in 2010, when Burttram and UA Adapted Athletics Director Brent Hardin began exploring a new sport for the program. They eventually settled on golf after feedback from athletes who wanted a sport in which amputees and student-athletes who use wheelchairs could participate.

“We decided it was good to add because that was the feedback we were getting, especially from our (military) veterans, a growing population on campus,” said Hardin. “We’re excited about growing the team to, hopefully, five to 10 members.”

Burttram said UA has an agreement with Old Colony Golf Club in Tuscaloosa to practice on its course. Burttram is also working with wheelchair designer Eagle Sports Chairs to design a chair that will allow golfers better range of movement when swinging a club. Southern Golf Warehouse in Birmingham is designing special clubs for Burttram. When Burttram began playing, he bought clubs and sawed them down so he could hit the ball for a lower angle.

“Getting the right equipment helps tremendously,” Burttram said. “It’s a pretty big expense. It’s a lot of time and planning, and then finding the right shop to make the right clubs. Eagle Sports makes our chairs, and I just went and talked to their CEO, and they just started putting my chair together for golf. We should have it here by mid-August.”

Hardin said the golf program has been on a “trial run” since the spring but is set to enter competitive tournaments this fall. He hopes interest will pick up as the team adds equipment and as word spreads on campus and through social media.

“It was a good fit because of infrastructure and interest,” Hardin said. “In the fall, we’ll pitch it to the rest of campus. Hopefully, other universities will add golf.”

UA’s Adapted Athletics program began in 2003 with women’s wheelchair basketball. The women’s team has won three national championships, while the men’s team clinched its first in the spring. UA sent eight student-athletes to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, England.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.