Sports

Local golfer Jeff Brunette travels to Oshawa to use assistive device to help him play round of golf

By Pembroke Daily Observer

Local resident Jeff Brunette recently had the opportunity to use a para golf cart at a course in Oshawa, Ont. whiich allowed him to get back out on the links after being forced to sit out of one of the games he loves because of a rare degenerative muscle disease.

Local resident Jeff Brunette recently had the opportunity to use a para golf cart at a course in Oshawa, Ont. whiich allowed him to get back out on the links after being forced to sit out of one of the games he loves because of a rare degenerative muscle disease.

Jeff Brunette suffers from a rare degenerative muscle disease called Myofibrillar Myopathy, which is a hereditary disease, caused by a mutated gene. For the last four years his mobility has been significantly compromised to the extent now that he cannot walk unassisted and his hand and arm strength have been affected as well.

 

He has led a very active life, excelling at downhill skiing and golfing, along with hobbies of fishing and hunting. He was a competitive athlete during his school years and he maintained a very active adulthood enjoying all of the sports he loved to do. Brunette's deterioration has been steady and he can no longer participate in the active lifestyle he once cherished.

Because of his disability he now uses AFO’s (ankle foot orthotics) on both feet to help with the accompanying foot drop, one of the symptoms of his disease. Last year he was able to swing a golf club while standing on his own but this year he’s unable to pick up a club to swing.

Recently he researched a new invention made for golfers who have disabilities and mobility issues. It is called a ‘Para Golfer’ cart, designed by a German company, Ottobock. There are limited numbers of these carts available, so once Brunette found one in Ontario he was determined to give it a try. The trip to Oshawa, Ont. to the Lakeridge Links Golf Course was to be an opportunity for him to try the cart out for free to see if it would be suitable for him. The management at this course were extremely helpful and accommodating.

The cart itself is very compact, easy to operate and accessible to the entire course with minimal restrictions. Some of the amazing technology was its ability to be driven just about anywhere on the course which is important for accessibility. It also is able to sense that if the golfer is not in a good position for the cart to stay upright, it will stop and switch to manual operation. The concept of the cart is to bring the one-person operator from a sitting position to an almost standing position, securing the rider with a seatbelt as well as straps at the shin area and chest. The controls are simple, using a joystick to go forward and backward as needed and controls to raise and lower the seat.

It didn’t take long for Brunette to learn to manoeuvre the cart and, to his surprise, he was able to keep up the pace with his partner who was riding a regular golf cart. This twosome did not hold up the pace of play for the round of 18 holes.

The outcome of this opportunity was bittersweet. He completed 18 holes and was thrilled to be able to be on the course again. He came to a somewhat disappointing conclusion for his own personal situation. He lacks the upper body strength to strike the ball as far as he would like to and does not have enough grip strength to maintain a grip on the clubs. However, this machine lets him fully participate in golf again, facilitating accessibility to the game and the course and provides him the sheer pleasure of once again being on the links.

Brunette is excited to share his experience with other golfers and persons with disabilities who would have the necessary strength and abilities to operate the cart and maximize the use of this amazing technology. The opportunities that this cart provides would be a great asset for those active athletes who require the support it offers along with the abilities that are needed to play a round of golf. He will actively support and advocate for the use of this cart in local golf clubs in Renfrew County. If anyone wishes to contact Jeff with an interest in pursuing this, please contact him at: gjbrunette@bell.net.