Hitting a golf ball 300 yards is the ultimate thrill for most golfers, but a majority will never accomplish the feat. That’s not the case for ParaLong drive champion Jason Aken, who easily hits 300-yard drives — using only his right arm.
Aken, 29, is the reigning ParaLong Drive Cup arm-unassisted division champion and is scheduled to defend his title Wednesday and Thursday at the Sports and Event Complex in Mesquite. The event is open to the public and features athletes with permanent illnesses, injuries and other physical challenges including amputation, paraplegia, brachial plexus injury, cerebral palsy, blindness, autism, traumatic brain injury, hemiplegia and down syndrome. Competitors from four countries and 19 states are scheduled to hit.
In 2010, Aken, from Thorpe, Wisconsin, lost three fingers on his left hand while bending sheet metal on a 90-pound press during his work shift at Thorpe Equipment. Making the situation even more horrifying, he had to finish the press cycle to remove his hand.
Aken, an all-conference golfer at Thorpe High School, is a scratch golfer and most likely will break the arm-unassisted distance record of 282.5 yards while in Mesquite.
Last July, Aken blasted an elevation-enhanced drive of 367 yards during the Mile High Showdown in Denver, Colorado, a World Long Drive Championship event when he hit against some of the world’s best long drivers. The drive was an unofficial record and he finished 22nd in local qualifying.
His goals are to win this week and to also beat the best two-handed long drivers. In January, he hit with them at the PGA Show in Florida during a Golf Channel exhibition.
“With two hands, I used to hit it more than 400 yards on a regular basis without using a long drive swing, but it took me two years to even get back on the course because I knew I wouldn’t be able to hit it like I used to,” Aken said. “One day, my dad encouraged me to play with friends and family, and I realized it wasn’t that hard for me. People were amazed and were telling me how inspiring I was. Now, encouraging and inspiring people keeps me driving and I want to beat the best.”
According to ParaLong Drive Cup founder Dean Jarvis, who lost a leg during a battle with osteosarcoma cancer as a teenager, the sport is about more than competition.
“The physical improvements for athletes are significant, but they pale in comparison to the tremendous gains in self-esteem and self-confidence some achieve by becoming a champion or joining our ParaLong drive family,” Jarvis said. “I have tremendous respect for our longest hitters, but even more admiration for the athletes that have taken everything life can throw at them and keep moving forward.”
The Eureka Casino and Resort in Mesquite is the first resort in the nation to offer a paramobile, which allows those in wheelchairs to stand up and play golf. The amenity is free.
— Wes Crockett won the Las Vegas Country Club men’s club championship, defeating Garrett Logan in 19 holes. Diane Booth won the ladies club championship, defeating Cynthia Bledsoe 3 and 2.
— Chip Miller defeated Harry Helfrich in 19 holes to win the Legacy Golf Club match play title. Matt Piccolo and Dave Klimek tied for third.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or @LVGolfInsider.
Wednesday: UNLV men’s golf, Southern Highlands Collegiate, Southern Highlands
Friday, Saturday: UNLV Men’s Golf, Jackrabbit Invite, Boulder Creek
Saturday, Sunday: SNGA Summerlin Amateur, Higland Falls, Palm Valley
Sunday: Golf Channel Southwest Open, Rhodes Ranch
Monday, Tuesday: UNLV Women’s Golf, Jackrabbit Invite, Boulder Creek
March 19: SNGA Tour, Desert Pines
March 23-25: UNLV Women’s Golf, PING/ASU Invite, Scottsdale, Arizona
March 24, 25: SNJGA IMG World Qualifier (9-14), Highland Falls
March 28, 29: SNJGA IMG World Qualifier (15-18), Highland Falls
March 29-31: UNLV Men’s Golf, The Goodwin, San Francisco
April 8-10: UNLV Women’s Golf, Silverado Showdown, Napa, Calif.
April 9: SNGA Short Game Championship, Desert Willow
April 14, 15: UNLV Men’s Golf, The Thunderbird, Phoenix
April 17: SNGA Tour, NV State Qualifier, Aliante
April 17: UNLV Football Foundation Tournament, Spanish Trail
April 18-21: Derek Jeter Celebrity Invitational, Shadow Creek
April 28, 29: SNGA Nye County Championship, Mountain Falls
April 28, 29: RecruitLook Sunrise Junior Championship, Club at Sunrise
What: Valspar championship
Where: Palm Harbor, Florida; Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead Course) (7,340 yards, par 71).
When: Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-noon (Golf Channel), noon-3 p.m. (KSNV-3).
Purse: $6.5 million. Winner’s share: $1,170,000.
Defending champion: Adam Hadwin.
Last week: Phil Mickelson won the Mexico Championship for his third World Golf Championships title.
FedEx Cup leader: Justin Thomas.
PGA Tour Champions
What: Toshiba Classic.
Where: Newport Beach, California, CC (6,584 yards, par 71).
Television: Friday, 3-5 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 2:30-5 p.m. (Golf Channel).
Purse: $1.8 million. Winner’s share: $270,000.
Defending champion: Jay Haas in 2016.
Last week: Steve Stricker won the Cologuard Classic.
Schwab Cup leader: Jerry Kelly.
European Tour and Asian Tour
What: Hero Indian Open.
Where: New Delhi; DLF Golf & CC (7,417 yards, par 72).
When: Thursday, 9:30-11:30 p.m., 10 p.m.-4 a.m. (Golf Channel); Friday, 11:30 p.m.-4 a.m. (Golf Channel); Sunday, midnight-4:30 a.m. (Golf Channel).
Purse: $1.75 million.
Defending champion: S.S.P. Chawrasia.
Last week: George Coetzee won the Tshwane Open.
Race to Dubai leader: Shubhankar Sharma.
— By The Associated Press