Golf is a game that offers many benefits for people facing challenges ranging from head injuries, strokes, amputees, those with muscular dystrophy or ms to arthritis suffers, autistic individuals and those that are mentally challenged. Golf can help improve balance, hand-eye coordination, strengthen muscles in the legs, arms and hands. For people with autism it teaches social skills and gives structure in an outdoor environment. Everyone benefits from being in nature with fresh air and interacting with others. Given the right instruction, opportunity to play and then motivating them to stay with it can truly enhance the life of anyone facing adversity. Golf can allow them to build a network of friends and alliances that will extend beyond the golf course.
Jarrad Kogos can speak personally about many the benefits of golf for many of these challenges. At 12 years old Jarrad was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a form of high functioning autism. At 13 Jarrad discovered GOLF. Golf became his life. With Golf Jarrad found a way to connect to others, he learned social etiquette and how to practice good sportsmanship and Jarrad made a lot of friends. Jarrad played on his high school golf team for four years and being a golfer was Jarrad's identity. Jarrad's older brother once teased Jarrad by trying to start a conversation Jarrad could not turn back to golf, it was an unsuccessful attempt. True to someone with Asperger's Jarrad was obsessed with golf and all aspects of the game. Jarrad learned the perfect techniques, he memorized all of the stats of the pros, he knew all about every golf course and that was best grasses for each climate. Jarrad dreamed of becoming a golf pro and a course designer. One month after Jarrad graduated from high school, one month before his 18th birthday in June of 2005, Jarrad got a horrible answer to why his game and grades slipped his senior year. Jarrad was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, medullablastoma. Jarrad underwent surgery, radiation, chemo and three rounds of stem cell transplant, each time going into septic shock and many surgeries including brain shunts,Tracheotomy,feeding tubes and more. Jarrad was still receiving ongoing physical therapy and swallow/speech therapy at Brooks Rehabilitation when he started HUG. As Jarrad began to use a walker and be more mobile he wanted to enjoy GOLF again. Brooks offered an adaptive sports program but it did not include golf. Jarrad started looking for a place in Jacksonville area that he could play. What Jarrad discovered is there was very limited opportunities for someone with disabilities to enjoy golf, few courses had adaptive carts or equipment and there were no programs. Jarrad decided that if he was having that big of a challenge others would too. Jarrad was familiar with golf, the golfing community and he was as persistent as one could be, still he was challenged to find a place to play. After much research, making many new friends and contacts Jarrad wanted to help others enjoy golf and benefit from the rewards golf gave him, both with autism and his physical challenges. Jarrad discovered there are many, many people that want to enjoy golf as an adaptive sport. HUG was created to help address the needs through teaching the skills, providing the equipment and setting up environments welcoming for those with disabilities. HUG seeks provide education and training as well as increasing awareness of golf as a therapeutic and rewarding activity.
*In February of 2009, Jarrad was given an honary membership to TPC Sawgrass, Dye Valley Course. Billy Dettlaff and Matt Borocz begin working with Jarrad (almost daily)to develop HUG and Jarrad's golf game. In April of 2009, Brooks discharged Jarrad. For the first time since June 2007, Jarrad's life has returned to the focus being on tee times and not pt times. Everyone agrees golf was huge in the development of his core body strength and improve balance. Golf also vastly enriched Jarrad's social life, again.