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Golf program offers freedom, inclusion to adaptive players

Seated-division champion Billy Fryar and runnerup Larry Celano shared a meaningful hug from their wheelchairs following the third and final round of the U.S. Adaptive Golf Alliance International Championship at Desert Pines last week.

For Fryar, it was his first time defeating Celano.

For Celano, those previous victories were nice, but just being out on the course was enough.

“This is the first competitive thing I’ve done in 30 years since my injury,” Celano said through tears as Fryar comforted him. “I’ve put a lot of hard work into it and it’s nice to finally get to play against my peers with similar disabilities.

“I have fallen in love with golf and it has opened a whole new world. It is the first time in so long that I can say, ‘I did it.’”

Iraq War veteran Chad Pfeifer played in the “above the knee” division and was the tournament’s overall champion.

“Chad has used golf to get back his life,” said USAGA chairman Edmund “E.Q.” Sylvester. “In golf, as we all know, when we hit the sweet spot, there’s nothing better. When the disabled hit the golf ball, it puts something through them; a wonderful shock, a wonderful feeling of joy and also a wonderful feeling of freedom. As a result, they get hooked.

“For us, it’s all about inclusion and using the game to improve their lives.”

Southern Nevada Golf Association rules officials oversaw the 15-division tournament and a world-ranking system, sanctioned by the U.S. Golf Association in May, was utilized.

Rebels dominate putting

At Legacy last week, former UNLV golfers Harry Hall, Taylor Montgomery and A.J. McInerney turned in strong performances at the Major Series of Putting.

Montgomery won $30,000 by winning the singles stroke play title for the second time in three years and also earned an additional $10,000 in seven other events during the week. McInerney ended the week with more than $25,000 after he and Hall partnered to win the team title. McInerney also won a turbo singles title.

“I had a blast out here, and this is good practice trying to putt under pressure,” McInerney said. “I actually missed advancing to the second stage of Q-school because I three putted the last hole.”

Hall recently turned professional and was coming off a 15th -place finished at the European PGA Tour Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews. During the final round, he was paired with Rory McIlroy.

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Wilson to defend at Augusta

Yana Wilson is one of 17 youngsters making a return trip to the 2020 Drive, Chip and Putt finals at Augusta the Sunday prior to the Masters. Wilson recently qualified at Colorado Golf Club and was the champion of the 12 and 13-year old girls division in 2019. In all, 80 competitors are in the field, which also includes Southern Nevada’s Nicholas Kilgore.

The golf notebook appears Wednesdays. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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