Issaquah nursing center tees up adapted putt putt golf

November 1, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

Jennifer Sarzillo (left) gets a little help from Bill Perry in using a specialized putter from her wheelchair to make a golf shot. By Greg Farrar

When new resident Don Varney approached the makeshift tee, Bill Perry apparently thought he had an old pro on his hands.

Perry quickly took away Varney’s normal putter and introduced him to “BOB,” which in this case stands for “Ball on Ball.”

Basically, BOB is a metal golf ball on the end of a golf club, something golf professionals use to practice putting, according to Perry. When he’s out and about helping the mobility-impaired take on his highly portable putting green, Perry said he uses BOB to trip up the ringers, or the wise guys, as he put it.

Incidentally, Varney later said he was not really a golfer, or at least hadn’t been in a very long time. Giving folks a chance to swing a club again is one aim of Perry, who takes his traveling golf show all around the Puget Sound area to spots such as the Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where he landed in late October.

A certified golf instructor as well as longtime owner of his own sales and marketing company in Bellevue, Perry launched Just Putt’n Around Golf in 2007. The idea is straightforward: make putting accessible to seniors and the mobility-challenged. There are a few keys to having that happen.

For example, a normal everyday putting club would have a head at approximately a 75-degree angle to the shaft. The heads of Perry’s adaptive clubs sit at about 45 degrees. The difference allows a player in a wheelchair to still hit the ball with control.

Additionally, some of Perry’s specialized clubs are short, about the half the length of a regular club. Again, the idea is to allow anyone the opportunity to try his or her hand at putting. People such as stroke survivors and paraplegics have used Perry’s clubs — and no doubt his putting green.

“I encourage participation by everybody,” he said.

Most often, Perry’s one-hole, artificial turf course is set up outside. Rain chased him indoors on this day, but that wasn’t a problem. He set up the putting green in the center’s dining room, with the slightly elevated holes perched against one wall. Bright orange cones surrounded the green, to help guide shots. In addition to normal golf balls, Perry offered putters tennis and Whiffle balls. (He had a joke ball that laughed when it was hit, but somebody smacked it a little too hard, marking the end of its life in one piece.)

On the Web

Learn more about Just Putt’n Around Golf at www.justputtnaround.com.

As he says he always does, Perry worked hard to make sure everyone who tried a shot made a shot. He coached seniors and others on how to use the specialized clubs. He got down on his knees and helped swing clubs as needed.

“It’s no fun to come up here and miss,” he said.

Perry said he usually provides some small prizes for the best shots. On this day, he has two small plaques he intends to give away, one for the best male and one for the best female golfer of the day.

The course set up in the center was a 12-foot hole. Perry said he also has a 25-foot version. While still running his marketing firm, Perry added he usually sets up one of his putting courses two or three times a week.

On this day in Issaquah, Garrod Hudson made a shot from his wheelchair on the very first try. He said he hasn’t been golfing since at least 2005.

“I think it was fun, it’s been a long time,” Hudson said of Perry’s one-hole course.

“It’s heartwarming to see some of our residents with disabilities getting so much joy out of an activity,” said Lynnette Anderson, the center’s director of admissions.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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