ParaLong Drive World Championships Inspire Awe and Innovation

MESQUITE, NEV.— After his 409-yard blast won last year’s inaugural ParaLong Drive World Championship, Jared Brentz of Nashville didn’t think his 352-yard poke stood a chance in the semi-final against Canadian Josh Williams.

But Brentz, who had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 12, nipped his competitor’s drive by seven yards to gain the final against Minnesota’s Tim Herrmann.

And by the same seven-yard margin (340 – 333), Brentz edged Herrmann to win the Open Division Championship.

“I didn’t think I’d put one far enough to beat Tim,” he said after learning he’d won. “Every time I made impact I kept on losing my grip.”

Brentz (pictired below) held on to win. And while his drives wowed the gallery, so did the inspiring grit and skill of every athlete who participated on the world-famous long drive grid at the Mesquite Sports & Event Complex.

More than 60 men and women showed that no obstacle—not paralysis, amputation, blindness or brain trauma—could prevent them from the joy that comes from striking a golf ball.

And they do it—amazingly well—with one arm, a prosthetic leg (or legs) or from a paramobile cart. 

Started by “above the knee” amputee Dean Jarvis as the Amputee Long Drive Championship (ALDC), this year’s ParaLong Drive Worlds embraced disabled competitors from nine countries across 20 divisions.

Denverite Matt Farmen (pictured below), a 26-year-old civil engineer who became a paraplegic 15 years ago in a sledding accident, represented Colorado in the “Paramobile, 1-Arm” Division. It was his first competition—and he won it with a 201-yard drive.

An internationally ranked junior wheelchair tennis player, Farmen played for the University of Arizona on scholarship. “But now I play just for fun,” he says. “Golf is my main thing now.”

For all division results, click here.

Three other Coloradans at the event made a big impression:

Among the honored speakers at the reception were Freedom Golf Association Founder and Chairman E.Q. Seymour (pictured below), whose degree from the University of Colorado launched a successful 50-year career in international business.

Shortly after retiring, Seymour, a passionate golfer, developed sepsis that resulted in the amputation of both feet and left hand. Unable to find help relearning to play the game, he created the Freedom Golf Association, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing resources together to allow individuals with special needs to enjoy and play the game of golf. “Statistics show that more than 18,000 challenged people want to play golf if given the chance,” he says. “And we want to reach every one of them.”

There’s a good chance some of them have already benefited from the work of Bob Radocy, founder and president of Boulder-based TRS, Inc., one of the leading innovators of body-powered prosthetic devices in the world, specializing only in individiduals missing a hand or hands.

At a pre-competition technology presentation at the Eureka Casino and Resort, Radocy, who lost his left forearm and hand in an automobile accident, described how he applied his engineering and biological sciences education and design experience to create a high performance prehensor that allowed him to be competitive with two handed peers in any activity he chose.

That includes weightlifting, archery, kayaking, basketball and dozens of other sports–especially golf.

Attendees at the event also got a look at the future of prosthetics and robotics from Easton LaChappelle (pictured top with robotic hand), an 18-year-old wunderkind from Mancos, near Cortez. At a pre-competition technology presentation at the Eureka Casino and Resort, LaChappelle described how his self-taught knowledge of robotics, anatomy and 3D printing could revolutionize the prosthetic industry.

LaChappelle’s inspiration came at a science fair he’d entered with a robotic hand. After seeing a seven-year-old girl wearing an $80,000 prosthetic arm that she would have to replace several times as she grew, LaChappelle decided to turn his prototype into a 3D-printed, brain-powered arm the user could operate with his or her mind.

“And,” he said, “because the robotic arm and hand are open source, it costs a fraction of what a normal prosthetic costs and puts the user first.”

His company, Unlimited Tomorrow, is also developing a new concept of an exoskeleton to help paraplegics walk again. Watch Easton's full presentation at TEDxMileHigh below.


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