An original group of 12 men with amputations was the nucleus of today’s national organization. Dale Bourisseau, a veteran of World War II in which he received his below knee amputation, looked up comrades with similar injuries and encouraged them to try golf — as a means of recreation and to re-enforce pride. Dale teamed up with Possibilities Unlimited, a group of people with disabilities formed in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to gathering players by word of mouth, Dale also traveled with golf clubs as part of his sales position. Eventually, the band of amputee golfers became regional, with friendly games developing into tournament play in various cities.
By 1954, the group was incorporated as the National Amputee Golf Association (NAGA), supported by the Professional Golf Association (PGA) and the United States Golf Association (USGA). NAGA currently has over 2,000 members in the United States and some 200 players from 17 other countries. In addition to its national tournaments and National Senior Championship, the NAGA sponsors local and regional tournaments throughout the country.
Perhaps NAGA’s highest visibility occurred as a result of the highly popular First Swing Program which teaches adaptive golf to people with physical disabilities. Currently, over 30 clinics are held across the U.S. every year. The Golf for the Physically Challenged program has enabled many to realize first hand that they can play the game and have fun in an outdoor sport. To assist a growing number of physical, occupational, and recreational therapists, who realized the adaptability of golf as a rehabilitation medium, NAGA brought its First Swing program to hospitals and rehabilitation centers throughout the U.S. in 1989. Hundreds upon hundreds of amputees and physically challenged individuals have rediscovered their sense of personal pride through their participation in these NAGA golf programs.