CLEVELAND – For Charlie Morris, 72, golf is more than a leisurely retirement game – golf is means to physical and mental well-being, in spite of having a disability.
More than 45 years ago, while serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, his helicopter encountered a sniper over the over the Mekong Delta.
Morris was shot in the head, leaving him paralyzed on his right side.
But, the now grandfather and retired high school teacher refuses to let his disability keep him off of the greens.
Thanks to the Cleveland Clinic Challenge Golf program, Morris is able to refocus his abilities and his thoughts to the positive.
“The thing about this place is that it gives people who can’t do a lot of physical things something fun to do,” said Morris, who has been golfing at the facility since 2001. “I always tell everybody, if you want to play golf, they will figure a way, no matter what your disability may be.”
The challenge golf concept was developed by recreational therapists as a way to provide therapeutic benefits for people recovering from strokes, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, amputations and neuromuscular disorders.
Aside from the skill-building, the course also provides a supportive atmosphere to encourage those with disabilities to set goals, grow their self-esteem, and improve their mental and physical health.
The players, many referred from rehab facilities, are often former golfers looking to return to the game they love. Others are new to golf, but eager to find a physical outlet.
Morris, who in addition to being an avid golfer, is also an author and has written an autobiography about his Vietnam experience and his life afterwards.
He participates in a twice-monthly league at Challenge Golf, and also likes to play with his son, Matt, and 10-year-old grandson, Logan.
When it comes to golf, Morris enjoys the exercise – but also the camaraderie.
“When you come here, you’re going to smile and laugh and it’s a wonderful feeling,” he said. “We talk and encourage each other, people struggling to overcome something, just like you. It’s not just about golf. It’s about family and having a sense of purpose.”