On this edition of Amateur of Golf Talk LIVE!, host Shan Coughlin is joined by Brendon Jacks, amputee golfer and a competitor of the ParaLong Drive – an event that Coughlin describes as something in the golf world that is not only one of the coolest things she’s run across, but is something worthy of sharing. In the long drive event, players are allowed six balls each time they go up, and get six opportunities to shoot. The ball has to hit the grid for it to count. Coughlin explained that while the skill and talent showcased at these events is spectacular, the stories that come out are even more important than the golf itself.
In 1999, Jacks was involved in an accident with a shotgun, which dispersed on his leg and consequently blew out his main artery and nerve. After keeping his leg for a year, the limb became necrotic around the heel and the teenager lost his foot. “You get better with adversity,” Jacks said. After spending time in an inpatient facility, where he had to “fight a couple of [his] demons,” his father came up one day with his golf clubs. “This was after my amputation. I was pretty down on my luck,” Jacks recalled. “There was nothing but support around me, and I had a good life. I created my own mess.
“My father came up, brought my sticks, it was about a month and a half after the amputation. He said, ‘let’s go play.’ I looked at him like ‘what are you doing? You’re crazy. I’m missing my leg. Like, I can’t do this, you’re crazy.’ But he wouldn’t take no.” Jacks said his father dragged him out to the golf course and Jacks proceeded to shoot about an 86 that day, straight off the bat. He said he hadn’t picked a club up in a year prior to that.
In 2010, Jacks moved from Yuma to Prescott Valley, AZ. During a local skins game, Jacks was approached by a gentleman who was competing in long drive, who gave him Lance Reader’s information. When Jacks visited Reader, the owner of Krank Golf – a company that specializes in drivers – he was handed a golf club and asked to participate in the upcoming drive event. That year, Jacks made it to regionals with the World Long Drivers Association, by hitting a drive at 399 yards. Krank Golf has always sponsored me and given equipment,” Jacks said. “I haven’t gone elsewhere; it does great for me.”
Later, Dean Jarvis, founder of the Amputee Long Drive Championship, reached out to Jacks. “I eventually called him,” explained Jacks. “It sounded so crazy, that it had to be real,” he laughed. “[Jarvis] is the most passionate enthusiastic person that you’re ever gonna meet…I contacted him. I was a little skeptical about it. How would it come to fruition? Getting to know Dean the past couple years has been paramount. He’s so passionate about the sport and wanting to grow it. He’s passionate about the people, as well, which I really like.”
Jacks said he feels like he is also an ambassador for the sport, having been involved from the beginning. He also expressed his gratitude to a few of the event’s sponsors Tennessee National and Pilot Flying J, the title sponsor. “Kudos to them,” he said, “I appreciate the fact that they see value in what we’re doing. And I’m hoping more people jump on board as well.” Coughlin pointed out that Jacks was a competitive baseball player through high school and his accident actually had derailed what he thought was going to be a baseball career. Having been playing golf since the age of 7, Jacks was fortunate his father could use the sport as a bridge back to him.
“This sport gives so much to folks, and not only able-bodied folks,” explained Coughlin. “We call it ParaLong Drive; Dean originally called it the Amputee Long Drive, but we changed it to ParaLong because he never knew, even as an amputee himself, that there would be blind golfers interested in participating!” she said. Jacks agreed that there are many people out there with disabilities and in a lot of cases, the disabilities can’t visibly be seen. “And don’t take the word disability wrong,” he added, “because I don’t think I’m disabled by any means. But there are so many people out there and we might not be able to see the physical, but also the mental. Mental disabilities are a huge thing in society today, that’s totally misunderstood. So we want to incorporate the whole spectrum,” Jacks concluded.
The ParaLong Drive Cup will be at the Tennessee National in Loudon, Tenn. on July 9. To find more information about the ParaLong Drive and other organizations involved with the event, visit www.amputeelongdrivechampionship.com. Additionally, golfers can search Google for Dean Jarvis, or check out more on TheGolfDirector.com.
“As an amputee, Shan, we have our good days and our bad days, and you know, we’ve got to put our smile on regardless,” Jacks said. “…We all have a challenge now and I mean, if we are up and getting around, we have hope. There’s hope.”