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Hudson about to rejoin pals as national amputee champ

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- For Mike Hudson, it's time for the fraternity to get back together -- the fraternity being his longtime pals on the National Amputee Golf Association circuit.

Hudson is Pasco County's national amputee champion. The summer NAGA schedule soon will be at full throttle and he can't wait to start traveling the country playing alongside his friends.

"Oh yeah, of course. I'm 53 and been playing amputee golf on and off since the early 70s," Hudson said. "It's just like a fraternity. You've got friends all over the world and it's a great organization and a great program."

Hudson was born without his right arm below the elbow. It didn't stop him from playing eight years of organized baseball, or rising to the top of the NAGA ranks.

He lives and plays at Seven Springs, and works as vice president of outside sales for Bee-Hive Awards Center in Clearwater.

The NAGA is far more competitive than some would believe, Hudson said, and he never tires of explaining that to those unfamiliar with the association and its mission.

"When I first started playing amputee golf, I heard people think that there are guys shooting in the 120s, the 130s," Hudson said. "Did you know that 20 percent of our amputees who play golf have a single handicap?"

Hudson's handicap -- he proudly beams -- is just 5.3.

He'll test it against some of the NAGA's best in some of the top events. Included are:

The Southern Regional Championship at Point Mallard Golf Club in Decatur, Ga., May 18-20.

The U.S. Amputee Players Championship at South Park Country Club in Louisville, Ky., June 1-4.

The Ric Dolan Golf Challenge June 19 at Merit Club in Libertyville, Ill., a pro-am to benefit the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The top 24 disabled players, including Hudson, have been invited. The event comes about three weeks before the U.S. Women's Open is to be held there.

The National Amputee Golf Championship and International Cup matches in Monterey, Calif., Aug. 6-12. The second annual tourney, it is a Ryder Cup-style contest between teams from Australia, Canada, England, France, South Africa and the United States.

Hudson earned a berth on the U.S. team by winning last year's national tournament. He's also a veteran from the inaugural U.S. team that lost in the finals last year at Birmingham, Ala.

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY: Jan Johnson, the PGA pro and owner/operator of the Golden Run Ranch driving range and instructional facility in Hudson, is participating in a promotion with Golf Digest for free lessons.

May is Free Golf Lesson Month for the magazine, and Johnson's Golden Run Ranch will be honoring certificates for free 10-minute lessons found inside issues of Golf Digest.

All instructors involved in the program give out four free hours of lessons on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.. Bringing in the certificates and taking that 10-minute lesson from Johnson also qualifies participants for a Golf Digest sweepstakes.

Sunday will be an open house of sorts for Golden Run Ranch. Physical therapists from HealthSouth will be on hard to give golfers instruction in a golf-specific physical therapy program. "Anyone who wants to come out and ask them questions is more than welcome to," Johnson said.

Golden Run Ranch is located at 13827 Hudson Ave. Anyone with questions can call (727) 856-5585.

-- Got golf? Contact Pasco Times golf writer Jamal Thalji by phone at (352) 521-5757, ext. 25; by e-mail at thalji@sptimes.com; or by fax at (352) 521-0290.

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