Golfers with Amputations Gather to Compete — And Bond Over Shared Experiences At 20th Annual EAGA and JFK Johnson/Howard Taylor Memorial Tournament, Disabilities ‘Melt Away’

May 22, 2019

To Brian C. Phillips of Plainfield, stepping out on the golf course a year after his amputation meant he achieved another goal, another milestone.

“It feels really great to be here,” Phillips said. “My team at JFK Johnson promoted the idea of working toward goals and that’s what I’ve been doing in my rehabilitation. I’ve gained confidence to do all the things I want to do.”

Phillips joined more than 30 other amputee golfers to compete with each other and to bond over their shared experiences of living with an artificial limb. They gathered for the 20th Annual Eastern Amputee Golf Association/Howard Taylor Memorial Golf Tournament, sponsored by Hackensack Meridian Health JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison.

The event shows the lifetime benefits of rehabilitation, and the value of restoring patients’ health so they can enjoy recreational activities. At the event Monday at Rossmoor Golf Club, those with amputations played alongside those without limb loss.

“Everyone is equal. On the golf course, disability just melts away,” said Heikki Uustal, M.D., medical director of the Prosthetic/Orthotic Team at JFK Johnson. “Everybody has a chance to have a great shot … or to miss a shot. On the golf course, handicap means something different entirely.”

Some people with amputations were experienced golfers while others took up the game after their amputation surgery.

Louis Namm, an Eastern Amputee Golf Association Life Member and double amputee, teaches golf to others who have had amputations. He values the camaraderie he finds at the tournament.

“We’ve all experienced the different phases. The loss of a limb. The anger. The rehabilitation gauntlet. And we go through it and now we’re out here playing golf. You learn to move on with your life,” Namm said.

For Alan Lewis of Basking Ridge, losing a limb has not forced him to slow down his life. He plays golf several times each week, and especially enjoys the amputee golf tournament. He looked out at the golfers swinging clubs and walking with artificial limbs and said, “I can see that I am not alone in this adventure.”

The tournament raises money for college scholarships in honor of the founder of the tournament, Howard Taylor.  Proceeds from the event support college scholarships in his name.