International City Golf Club hosts special-needs children

wcrenshaw@macon.comDecember 22, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- At International City Golf Club on Saturday, a group of little golfers bundled in coats set some bad examples of how to hold and swing a club, but set very good examples of how to enjoy the game.

With many having their first try at hitting a golf club, they joyfully flailed at balls that often only trickled off the practice tee. Sometimes they totally whiffed.

But there were no angry outbursts from this bunch.

They were there for the first Golf Extravaganza for special-needs children and wounded warriors at the city-owned course. The participants got free lessons, lunch and Santa Claus made an appearance.

Zachary Jones, 7, wasn’t having a lot of success getting the ball to go in the hole as he made his first try at putting, but he couldn’t have seemed happier.

His mom, Autumn Jones, said he loves sports and loves to play golf on the Wii, so he was thrilled at the chance to play the game for real.

“We waited to tell him until his last day of school and he’s been looking forward to it since,” she said.

She said sports gives him an outlet for his high energy level.

“He would go 24/7 if we let him,” she said as she snapped photos of him putting. “He’s just full of energy and full of life.”

Club pro Jarred Reneau said the event came about after a member with a special-needs child told him about a grant that would fund such an event. He applied for it and got it. The downside was it had to be used this year, so he had only a couple of weeks to put the event together.

Most of the participants were disabled children, but there was a wounded warrior. Mike Almanza was almost a scratch golfer when he lost his right arm in a friendly fire incident in Desert Storm. The Marine veteran, however, didn’t let that stop him from playing the game he loves.

After his recovery, he went right back to playing. The fact that he was left-handed helped, but it took some adjustment. He doesn’t shoot anywhere near what he used to, which means it takes more time to play.

“It’s a matter of finding people who don’t mind having me tag along and hold them up,” he said. “I haven’t met a lot of people who are willing to go out and hack the course up with me.”

Almanza was seeking help with hitting his fairway woods better, and Reneau gave him a few tips. Reneau was impressed with how well Almanza could hit the ball.

“It was amazing to see somebody with one arm hit it 175 yards,” he said.

The event had about 30 participants and 20 volunteers, which Reneau said he was pleased with considering the short time frame.

He hopes to do the event twice next year, with one in the spring and another in the summer. He expects a better turnout with more advance notice and better weather.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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