ANNAPOLIS – After two back surgeries left him with movement in only one leg, John Kasuda, 61, wasn’t sure he would ever walk again, let alone golf.
But Baltimore’s Kernan Hospital had other plans — recreational therapy.
“I was a golfer before my surgeries and wished I could do more golfing,” said Kasuda, whose therapy grew from standing to play foosball to golfing on Kernan’s front lawn. Still he wasn’t able to practice chipping or putting.
Now he can.
Last week, Kernan Hospital dedicated a new 1,200-square-foot practice green with sand trap for people like Kasuda who are disabled by a traumatic injury, stroke or illness. A $17,290 grant from the United States Golf Association Foundation with matching funds from Kernan’s Auxiliary funded the green.
“It’s unique to have such a practice green,” said Pam Cauley, a recreational therapist at Kernan.
The green will be used for regular patient treatment and also for free community clinics for anyone with disabilities.
Craig Welsh, 39, suffered a stroke three-and-a-half years ago and was in Kernan for two weeks making significant progress.
“The golf program made my experience a little more livable,” said Welsh. “It takes someone who has really no reason to live and gives them something to think about and do.”
Welsh, an avid golfer before the stroke that left him paralyzed from the right elbow down, now golfs twice a month with his left hand.
“We help people transition back to the community and maintain their quality of life,” said Cauley. Since many of the patients were golfers before being disabled, the program helps them redevelop their skills.
The staff of Forest Park Golf Course, one of five courses operated by the Baltimore City Municipal Golf Corp., assists with weekly clinics at Kernan in the spring and the fall.
“We’ve been involved for 13 years . . . we touch a lot of people from the community,” said Jon Ladd, corporate golf director. Six to eight people attend the weekly clinics and practice everything from swings to chipping and putting.
Forest Park also operates a disabled golf league for people who finish rehabilitation and want to continue to play.
The course has two solo golf carts, one it purchased and one donated by Kernan. The adaptive cart allows people to golf from a seated position and has special, wider tires for access to greens and sand traps.
“We wanted to have some way for the disabled to get back out there and feel comfortable,” said Ladd.
In addition to its solo golf cart, the adaptive golf program also utilizes gripping aids and clubs with flexible shafts in its program for people who have weak grips or limited mobility.
“I see it as a very positive step for those of us who are rehabbing,” Kasuda said, “we go out there and do things we couldn’t do before.”