Missouri Golf Association opens "first 9-hole handicap accessible course in the nation"
JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Golf Association officially opened what they say is America's first handicap accessible 9-hole golf course Saturday at the Turkey Creek Golf Center.
The Ken Lanning Golf Center was built on flat land so people in wheelchairs and electric chairs can drive up on the green of each hole. It also features synthetic turf that will allow wheelchairs, handicap supports and carts on the greens and tee boxes.
Saturday's ribbon cutting was an emotional day for MGA Executive Director Scott Hovis, the golfer that came up with the idea five years ago.
"A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of back and forth a lot of questioning, 'Is this right, is this wrong?'" Hovis said.
Golf coach and avid player Dany Baker traveled from Illinois to try the first hole of the course.
"I've been in a wheelchair for 23 years," Baker said. "I definitely can't say I've seen anything like it, it's really amazing."
Professional golfer Stan Utley also played the first hole with Baker. Utley said he believes the Ken Lanning Golf Center is setting a trend for golf courses across the nation.
"This is certainly just the beginning," Utley said. "It may take years for it to catch on, but the ease and accessbility this course offers for people with certain disabilities, it's going to get a lot of attention."
President of the Missouri Junior Golf Foundation Jon Sundvold said he worked closely with Hovis to create this accessible course. He said Hovis' work ethic earned him the nickname of "Madman."
"He was always worried about or working on making this happen," Sundvold said. "I'd be at a game or working on something else, or sometimes it would be 1 a.m., and I'd get a text from Scott about an idea or change he was thinking of."
The course is named after Missouri Sports Hall of Famer Ken Lanning. Lanning devoted most of his life to playing golf and mentoring younger golfers. Utley said Lanning was one of his main mentors.
"This is the perfect way to remember an incredible golfer and a great teacher," Utley said.
Both Hovis and Sundvold said Saturday marked one of the best accomplishments in their golfing careers.
"Something you dream of, something you wish, you hope," Hovis said. "And you know it's going to happen, but until you see it in real life, and see it come to fruition, it's just an unbelievable feeling. I couldn't describe it in words."
For more information or to donate to the Ken Lanning Golf Center, visit GolfForeAll.org.