by Rich O’Brien
When Fred Gutierrez, the Partially Paralyzed Golfer, began playing golf four years ago he set some lofty goals that would serve to motivate him every day while he pursued them.
His first goal was to be able to walk 36 holes and shoot in the 80s. To most people it seemed impossible, but six months later he completed the inspirational For the Glory of God Golf Marathon.
His next goal was to inspire his fellow veterans, and he has done just that. The growth of the PGA HOPE program here in Charleston is a testament to how inspirational he can be to his fellow veterans, and we co-authored the book, Half Paralyzed, Twice Strong, with that purpose in mind.
Fred also dreamed of becoming one of the best one armed golfers in the country and being able to compete in North American One Armed Golf Association events and compete against the best one armed players in North America. This past month, Fred had the opportunity to accomplish that goal when he played in their National Championship in Rhode Island.
Fred knew that stepping up in competition was going to be very challenging both physically and mentally. First, he and his wife would have to drive about 15 hours to compete in the event. Second, he would be playing on bent grass for the first time which presents unique challenges for someone with OCD. And finally, the length of the course would be 1,000 yards longer than he was used to playing.
It was about to become much more challenging than Fred could even imagine. When his botox ran out on the first day his pain level spiked. Despite that, he shot a 96 (net 74) in the first round. Then on the second day, his AFO brace broke as he fell trying to step out of a sand trap on the 7th hole. The AFO brace allows Fred to walk and you can imagine how difficult it was after that to remain balanced while swinging and walking. Fred estimates that it probably cost him six shots over the final 11 holes.
Despite these unprecedented challenges, Fred finished the second round with a 100 (net 78). His two day gross total of 196 placed him 12th out of the 40 players in the tournament. He was so mentally and physically exhausted after the round that he went back to the hotel and immediately passed out.
The top eight players qualified for match play while everyone else played in a team event on day three and an event called the NQ Cup on the last day. In the NQ Cup he carded his best round of the week when he shot a 93 (net 71) to finish 4th among the Non-Qualifiers.
Fred’s next major tournament is coming up in July at Dataw Island in the Simpson Cup Qualifier. The event is the Ryder Cup for wounded warriors. But, between now and then, he must get his botox injections and have a new AFO built so he can restore his balance.
Fred’s dreams continue to drive him forward. He is living his life to the fullest despite living with what many consider a disability. And it is that attitude that inspires everyone he meets.
Note: Competing in national tournaments can be expensive. The NAOAGA has set up a special donation page to help its’ members be able to afford to play in more events. We will provide more details about the page once they are available.