Making golf accessible at the U.S. Adaptive Open

Pinehurst hosted the second annual USGA tournament, which spotlights golfers with disabilities


Aerial view of Ghost Creek golf course
Winners of the U.S. Adaptive Open, played July 10-12 at Pinehurst No. 6. Photo by Chava McKeel

The second annual U.S. Adaptive Open, hosted by the USGA, was played July 10-12 at Pinehurst No. 6, in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C. I had the unique opportunity to attend the Open as a member of the executive committee of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf.

The U.S. Adaptive Open serves as the USGA’s national championship, showcasing the world’s best golfers with disabilities. The championship is open to males and females, professionals and amateurs, with either physical impairment, sensory impairment (vision) or intellectual impairment, who have a WR4GD Pass (world rankings for golfers with disabilities), as well as a handicap index through the World Handicap System.

I knew this tournament was special the moment I arrived on property. There was a unique excitement in the air.

On Day One of the tournament, like a groupie I followed around Amy Bockerstette from the I Got This Foundation. (She has that PGA Tour player Gary Woodland/Kansas connection). Bockerstette has Down syndrome, and two of the other players in the foursome had prosthetic legs. It was incredible to watch their enthusiasm, enjoyment and athleticism while navigating the hilly course in hot temperatures.

On Day Two of the tournament, I watched golfers with missing limbs, who were blind, who had severe autism and those who were seated in wheelchairs. They were incredibly skilled and did not complain about the 100-degree weather — unlike me.

I was able to spend time with Bob Farren, CGCS, the caretaker of Pinehurst and 43-year GCSAA member. We both agreed the Adaptive Open was something that should be experienced by all. Jerry Everett, Course No. 6’s GCSAA Class A superintendent and seven-year association member, did an outstanding job getting the course ready for the tournament. Consultants came in to provide advice on how to make minor changes to the course to ensure it was accessible for all. It was exciting to see Everett honored by the USGA during the Open championship ceremony.

I have been proud to serve on the NAAG board of directors since 2013, on the Executive Committee since 2020. The Alliance is the leader in inclusion— working to ensure opportunity for all individuals with disabilities to play the game of golf. Formed in the summer of 2001, the NAAG is represented by major golf, recreation and therapeutic organizations in the United States; organizations that provide services for people with disabilities; and others who advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities into society.

During our monthly meetings, our focus is twofold: to help create resources that help owners and operators of golf courses be able to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to help provide guidance on creating a welcoming environment for individuals with disabilities at golf facilities. These resources and more information can be found on the Alliance website at

The Alliance is working on some exciting projects and getting ready to introduce itself to a much larger audience. Be on the lookout for a new commercial on public television featuring “Viewpoint” host Dennis Quaid. There is also in development a series of a dozen 30-to-90-second video vignettes that will expand upon the work of the Alliance and associated resources.

During July, the Alliance launched GAIN — Golf Access and Inclusion Network — in support of its mission “to increase the participation of people with disabilities in the game of golf.” Designed to foster national engagement on access and inclusion, GAIN is an adaptive golf community forum uniting golf, recreation and therapeutic facilities, health and wellness specialists, golf professionals, programs, golfers, and those who want to learn. I encourage GCSAA members to sign up for GAIN so you can get advice on how to get an accessible program started at the course and to hear from experts who can provide accessibility and inclusion answers, guidance or support on a local, regional or national level.

Serving GCSAA members for the past 25 years has offered me so many “pinch me” moments. Attending the U.S. Adaptive Open in July, while watching the world’s best golfers with different abilities, and serving on the board of the Alliance, are high up on the list. Please reach out to me directly if you need help with course ADA accessibility and inclusion.

Chava McKeel is GCSAA’s director of government affairs. She can be reached at 785-832-3619.