Marty Turcios has seen it time after time: someone who has physical limitations or other disabilities reluctantly approaches a golf ball during one of his classes and takes that first swing.
“I don’t know why but it is kind of like a magical thing happens when somebody hits a ball for the first time,” he said. “They want to do it again and again and again.”
For its work in the community, Marty Turcios Therapeutic Golf Foundation was awarded the Outstanding Service Organization Award by Walton Options for Independent Living during its MVP Community Awards luncheon. Barney’s Pharmacy won the Inclusive Community Award and Gerald Powell received the Outstanding Individual Advocate Award.
Turcios, who was born with cerebral palsy and faces his own speech and mobility challenges, earned a masters degree as a recreational therapist and moved his therapy program to the Augusta area a year ago from California.
“It was real hard in California” to do the kind of outreach he wanted, he said. His program found Wedges and Woods Golf Driving Range and Teaching Center, which had been doing adaptive golf clinics and classes in the community for several years, and owner Nick Prokosa put his program on hold to help Turcios build his. Prokosa serves on the board of directors of the foundation.
Golf works well for this purpose because “it is an individual sport,” he said. “Most other sports you have to be involved with other people.”
It is a good fit for people who might be anxious around crowds, such as those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Prokosa said. The foundation works a lot with people from Fort Gordon, for example, he said.
This year alone, they have provided classes and golf rounds to 219 people with disabilities free of charge. Adaptive equipment, such as carts where seats can rise to hold a golfer upright over a ball and hold them in place to allow them to swing, help get these players out onto the course, said Turcios’ wife, Melody Lacy. She credited Walton Options with helping them buy a home and get established in the community.
“I’m so glad they made it work,” said Viola Wilson with Walton Options.
Turcios, who has been playing golf for almost 50 years, said golf tends to provoke one of two reactions: “Either you love it or you hate it.” But it is rewarding for him to see people learn they love to play golf as he does despite whatever challenges they face.
“It’s amazing how their minds overcome all disabilities and limitations,” he said. “All they want to do is to hit a golf ball again and again.”