When Peter Fenn elected to have the lower half of his left leg amputated in 2007, he knew he’d have to stay involved with golf in some fashion.
Fenn, an East Aurora resident, suffers from a rare neurological disorder which, combined with his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam, caused serious lifelong leg issues that eventually led to the amputation among other major surgeries.
At that point, the longtime PGA professional had been a staple of Western New York golf for more than 30 years and he wasn’t ready to give it up. According to his wife, Deborah, he began to research ways to do just that before the amputation even occurred.
“The year he was going to get the amputation, he immediately started looking into how he could stay involved in golf with an amputation,” Fenn said.
While rehabilitating just after his surgery, Fenn came across an amputee golf magazine. He called the magazine’s publishers who led him to the Eastern Amputee Golf Association.
The organization based in Bethlehem, Pa., features a community of dues-paying members that put on local amputee golf tournaments. When Fenn learned of the association’s existence, he immediately told his wife he had an idea.
“He said, ‘I’m going to put on a tournament, I’m going to keep golfing,’ ” Deborah Fenn said.
On Monday, Peter Fenn, his wife and a group of volunteers put on the sixth annual Buffalo Amputee Golf Classic at Brierwood Country Club in Hamburg.
This year’s event featured an 18-hole “shamble” tournament, a longest drive competition, a putting contest and other golf-related competitions.
The shamble tournament is broken up into four flights, based on handicap scores. Winning foursomes receive wine, glasses and trophies as a reward.
Entrants pay $110 to play, which goes entirely to a two-pronged charitable endeavor.
Each year, the Fenns use $1,000 of the proceeds to put toward a scholarship winner. For the third time, the scholarship went to Brandon Schultz, a D’Youville student whose father is an amputee golfer.
The money that doesn’t go to scholarships goes to an amputee-related charity. This year, the money went to the Little Pebble Foundation, a group dedicated to providing funding for local amputee and prematurely born children.
Fenn decided to hold the tournament at Brierwood. He was the club professional there for 19 years when it was the Bethlehem Management Country Club.
A new wrinkle for this year’s tournament was a performance by Larry Alford – a world class one-armed golfer and self-described “hustler.”
Alford challenged participants to best him on a par-3 hole, with $10 at stake. The money goes back to Fenn’s charitable causes.
While Alford is an amputee, he usually entertains at regular golf tournaments and corporate events.
“I entertain corporate and charity events across the world,” Alford said. “It’s ironic that I’m entertaining an amputee golf tournament. I’m sure I’m going to be humbled by the talent of the one-armed and one-legged amputees out here golfing.”
Alford was a nationally ranked junior golfer in the early 1990’s who once beat Tiger Woods in an amateur golf tournament playoff. As a senior in high school, he was seriously injured while driving drunk, killing many of his golf-related dreams.
“Two weeks into my senior year, I was drinking and driving in a Corvette and got in a very serious accident,” Alford said. “I didn’t wake up for months. I lost my left arm below my elbow.”
While Alford, who now calls himself the “One-Armed Bandit,” was able to recover enough to play in college with what he calls a “one-of-a-kind prosthetic,” he wasn’t able to turn pro. In place of travelling on the PGA Tour, he travels to events across the country, entertaining and raising money for various charities.
“My goal is not only to raise money but to add inspiration,” Alford said.
Alford’s presence is a testament to how far above and beyond his goal Fenn has gone. This year featured a tournament-high 144 entrants, included an estimated 20 amputee players.
“I just wanted to stay involved. I love the game,” Fenn said.