When the war in Vietnam took Roy McCoy’s right leg, it was golf that got him up and moving again.
McCoy was a 21-year-old soldier when the man walking in front of him stepped on a land mine and the explosion lacerated both of McCoy’s legs.
“They sent me to the Naval Air Station Hospital in Corpus Christi,” McCoy said. “They had some really good doctors and they reattached my legs. But my right one wouldn’t heal, so they finally just took it off. At first they told me I never would be able to sit up straight, much less walk. I was determined enough I guess.”
McCoy said an especially aggressive physical therapist from Georgia, whom he called Georgia Peach, helped him regain his ability to sit up, stand up and walk with braces. And then a doctor made the recommendation that altered the course of McCoy’s life.
“My doctor said, ‘You need to go to the driving range to get your strength and balance back,’” McCoy said. “I’d been in a hospital bed for 18 months straight.”
Following the doctor’s directions, McCoy, his wife and 2-year-old son, took a bag of balls to the Texas A&M Polo Fields and he started playing golf. Eventually, he began playing with a group of fellow amputees, whom he’d met at a prosthetics center, and a close bond was formed.
For almost 40 years, McCoy has been playing golf and using the sport as a way to help people like himself. He and fellow Southwest Amputee Golf Association organizer Jerry Drummond have teamed up with Innovative Prosthetics to bring the Central Texas Amputee Tournament to Waco. Amputee golfers will compete on Saturday and Sunday at Twin Rivers Golf Club.
More than 30 golfers from across Texas and out of state are expected to compete in the first tournament the SWAGA has held in Waco.
On Friday afternoon, the SWAGA presented Kayla Halbert with a set of golf clubs. Halbert uses a prosthetic leg and also works with patients at Innovative Prosthetics. She had never played golf before Friday, but Drummond and McCoy were excited to get her started.
“That’s really what it’s all about,” McCoy said. “That’s what we started out as. We didn’t start out as a group that had high hopes of going to the Olympics and all that. We just wanted to get the guys together playing golf. To get those people who are home-bound and don’t think they can do it, get them out and show them that they can.”
This weekend’s tournament will feature a variety of skill levels along with players who have had arms or legs amputated, and some multiple amputees.
McCoy and Drummond bragged on the amazing story of tour member Steve Gandy, who had both arms amputated just below the elbow. Using prosthetic hands to grip the club, they said Gandy can send a golf ball flying more than 300 yards.
Drummond lost his right leg in a motorcycle crash in 2003 when a 92-year-old motorist sideswiped him. He was a golfer before the accident. But he said he’s gone from a bogey golfer to shooting in the high 70s and low 80s since learning to play with a prosthetic.
“I play better golf now than I did with two legs,” Drummond said. “I just can’t overswing.”
More important than scores and long drives are the relationships formed, not only between fellow golfers but between amputees and the sport.
Looking at Halbert and her new clubs, Drummond was able to precisely illustrate the SWAGA’s purpose.
“This right here is exactly what our mission is: to get amputees into golf,” he said.