From Brookmeadow in Canton to a Michigan podium, stroke survivor Musa Pam earned his spot as one of the best one-armed golfers on the continent after winning the North American One-Armed Golfers’ Association (NAOAGA) annual net championship tournament this summer.
Following a January 2012 stroke, Pam is forced to play golf one-handed.
During the first-class four day event, he qualified for the final tournament before besting his fellow one-armed competitors from around the United States, Canada, Mexico and even one from so far away as Australia on July 27 at the Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich., an 81-hole set of Robert Trent Jones, Rick Smith and Tom Fazio-designed courses.
“It was totally surprising, emotional and overwhelming — the absolute thrill of a lifetime,” Pam said, dedicating the win to the countless people who have helped him on the long journey from his surprise stroke through rigorous rehabilitation and to the podium.
Started in 2000, the mission of the NAOAGA is to promote golf to those who must play one-handed due to a physically-challenged condition for the purpose of competition, recreation, and physical and emotional rehabilitation. It organizes local, regional, national and international competitions across North America and Europe.
Pam, a Walpole resident, competed in his first NAOAGA championship last year at the North Kingstown Golf Course in Rhode Island where he was topped by Tom Chase of Bismarck, N.D., in the quarterfinals. He was able to exact revenge on his good friend this year when he beat Chase for the championship — a comeback win in which he was down by three strokes to start the match.
Locally, Pam hones his skills on the fairways and greens of Brookmeadow Country Club in Canton. Since the stroke, Pam has stuck to a meticulous fitness regimen in addition to rehabilitation that puts him on top of his game. On the day of his championship win, he walked the 31-holes and logged 30,000 steps — an impressive feat considering he had to re-learn how to walk after the stroke.
“I was devastated when I suffered the stroke on my late brother Yakubu’s birthday. My life changed that day, and I knew it would never be the same again,” Pam said.
After feeling nerves twitching in his left arm and losing his balance, he took an Ibuprofen and went to sleep.
“About two hours later or so, I woke up suddenly in cold sweats,” he said. “I believe my dad woke me up so that I would not suffer the fate he had — not surviving his stroke after two days. I took one step out of bed, and crumpled to the floor. I had the presence of mind to immediately call 911 from my home phone so that the Walpole Fire Department would know my address. From that day forward, I realized I had been blessed with an opportunity to hit the reset button in my life.”
He immediately quit smoking, lost 80 pounds over time and began golfing again in 2014.
Born into a middle-class family in Nigeria with six brothers, Pam sought to join Nigerian Navy as an officer. When that didn’t materialize, he convinced his mother to let him seek new opportunities in the United States — where she had brought him to visit as a 10-year-old the summer before he enrolled in Nigerian military school. He earned a marine engineering degree in 1995 and a degree in facilities and plant engineering the following year.
In part for how he was able to overcome his stroke and for his extensive volunteer work, Pam was recently named Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s Alumnus of the Year.
Inspirational and humble, Pam gives credit for his championship and drive to hundreds of people, including: the NAOAGA family, his own family, the Walpole Fire Department, therapists and providers at Norwood Hospital, Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Center and Foxboro’s Mass. General Rehab, his neurologist, the volunteers, contributors, and financial donors who helped send him to Northern Michigan, and PGA Teaching Pro Rick Johnson — who works with current and former Spaulding clients, teaching them how to play adaptive golf.
“I have too many people to thank, without whom none of this would be possible. I am blessed in so many ways and I would not be here today were it not for the nurturing, care and support of my late parents, family and many friends,” Pam said. “Coming here in 1991, I knew the United States was the greatest country on earth. This country has been good to me and her people have been amazing to me. The least I could ever do is give back in ways that I know how best to.”
Following the win, Pam was named to the team that will represent North America in the 2018 Fightmaster Cup — a Ryder Cup-style international competition for one-armed golfers between North America and Europe. He was also installed on the NAOAGA Board of Directors and tasked with helping to promote awareness of the organization.
“I just went out there and had fun playing in the finals with a good friend of mine,” he said. “We both gave it our all. He never quit, and he knew and expected that I never would. That is our motto as an association — ‘Never quit.’ It serves us as well on the golf course as it does in life.” TNS