When an accident took away the use of Dennis Walters’ legs in 1974, there were several things he knew he would never do again.
Playing golf was not one of them.
Bringing a message of inspiration and success through adversity, Walters entertained several hundred children and adults on the driving range at the Colbert Hills Golf Course Friday morning with ‘The Dennis Walters Golf Show’, a one-hour event featuring golf demonstrations and trick shots for all ages.
“I’ve always loved to play golf more than anything,” Walters said. “My big dream was always to play successfully on the PGA tour. I was going in that direction until my accident. I’m paralyzed from the waist down and I can’t move my legs — I can’t even feel my legs.”
After the accident, Walters worked tirelessly to resume playing golf.
“I just had to figure out a way to play, because it was unheard of to play golf sitting down,” Walters said. “So I started by hitting golf balls from my wheelchair, and I got to where I could hit the ball, but I couldn’t play. I could just stay on the driving range, which was frustrating.”
Soon after, Walters came up with the idea for a swivel seat on his golf cart. It would allow him to prop himself upright while fastened to the cart and resume playing the courses he loved. By 1977, he had developed a trick-shot show that has evolved into the national tour he now takes each summer.
“I never thought I could make a career out of this,” he said. “But I’ve done over 3,000 of these.”
Walters entertained the crowd with several trick shots using a unique set of clubs. The props range from a fishing rod to a three-headed club that hits three balls at the same time.
A staple in each of his shows, Walters’ 4-year-old dog Bucky warms up the crowd with tricks of his own. Bucky helps tee up balls and answers questions from the audience with a series of barks.
“If you go on my website, you can see all his tricks,” Walters said. “A lot of his tricks he does indoors. He picks up things I can’t reach –- he’s a service dog.”
Walters, one of 11 honorary lifetime members of the PGA, was appointed as a spokesman and national ambassador for The First Tee junior golf program in 2009. That brought him to Manhattan. This is the third time he has performed a show at Colbert Hills.
“My program is a program of not only golf lessons, but life lessons,” he said. “I’ve been talking about this for 36 years, so it was a natural fit. I think it’s worked out great.”
In 2008, the PGA presented Walters with its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. Other winners include Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
In the beginning, Walters said his shows borrowed tricks he learned from others.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Walters said. “As I started to feel like I could do this, then I started making up my own stuff. What you see today is what I came up with.
“I try to think of new things to do, new things to say. Every show is different, every audience is different. It’s always evolving.”