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Stone Ridge to add standing wheelchair for disabled

Anthony Netto demonstrates a shot from his Paragolfer. Photo from Stand Up and Play Foundation

Had he not discovered a purpose for pushing on, Anthony Netto believes he might have become a statistic, a wounded veteran overwhelmed by life to the point he took his own.

“I probably would have shot myself, eventually, if I hadn’t found my way,” said Netto, founder of the California-based Stand Up and Play Foundation that gives paraplegic golfers a path to the course.

“I think golf is very important and has given me a reason,” said Netto, himself a paraplegic. “Survivors’ guilt, for most of our wounded, is a big problem, and we found a way of helping our fellow brother or sister. This is a way of giving back.”

The next chance to give back will be Friday, when Netto — who co-invented the all-terrain standing sports wheelchair — will be the featured speaker at an information and training clinic at 11 a.m. at Stone Ridge Golf Club.

Stone Ridge is acquiring one of the chairs, the Paragolfer, through its association with David’s Chair Outdoor Mobility Systems of Medford. David’s Chair, which will stage its first charity golf tournament Saturday at Stone Ridge, is donating the wheelchair to the course.

The three-wheeled chair stabilizes the player with straps around the legs and stomach and, through the use of hand controls, raises so he or she can stand and make a golf swing.

It can also be adapted to those who have no legs.

“It’s nice,” said Vince Domenzain, Stone Ridge general manager and director of golf, “something new to have. It’s a nice addition and just a way to get someone with disability issues a chance to play golf.”

The chair is valued at $31,000, said Netto.

Individual golfers who use the chair will have fees covered through David’s Chair, said Domenzain. Stone Ridge would make the chair available to other courses, when feasible, he added.

Domenzain doesn’t have experience with the Paragolfer, but he went through PGA training at Chambers Bay in the Tacoma, Washington, area several years ago to help teach players with disabilities.

“I’ve had training on the swing side on how to help them improve and get the ball moving,” he said. “We went through all the different varieties of ways to swing a club, and one of them was someone who’s just swinging more with the arms and working through a chair.”

He’s a firm believer the chair is a game-changer.

“The stories about those are amazing,” said Domenzain, “the freedom it gives the person in the chair to be able to go on hikes in the mountains or hunting or going on the beach. Now, to kind of go to another level and allow them to come out here and play golf, it’s a great thing to be a part of.”

Netto’s own story is something else.

A South African, he was shot while serving in that country’s special forces during Desert Storm. Extensive rehabilitation followed, but three years later, in 1994, he was in a car accident with a drunk driver that left him paralyzed.

Ultimately, it led him to his invention 13 years ago.

Netto makes about 200 trips per year, he said, to explain the merits and operation of the Paragolfer, a Food and Drug Administration Class 3 device for its life-enhancement qualities and cutting-edge technology.

The chair is “life changing, life saving, therapeutic,” he said. “To stand up and do therapy is phenomenal. It helped me. I don’t have bed sores. I have really healthy blood circulation. Everything you’re supposed to do as a paraplegic, you end up in the beginning being very motivated, but as we get older, we get lazy, and that stand-up frame in the corner becomes a clothes stand or a bookshelf.”

He reiterated, it’s not just for golf, but for any activity — within reason — on a variety of surfaces.

Netto cited a man who is saving $150 a month using the chair to mow his own lawn.

Golf is a great way to get outdoors with friends, he said.

Unlike in basketball, he said, “You don’t have to wait for 10 other guys in wheelchairs to come out and play.”

He said he’s been told countless times, by a wife or a husband, that they got their spouse back because of the chair and the opportunities it provides.

“I was lucky, in a way,” said Netto, “that I didn’t give the ultimate sacrifice because I believe I’ve saved, I’ve been told, hundreds of lives every year by doing what we do. Survivors’ guilt is turned into energy for what I do.”

Reach Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com.