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    Jordan shows legs are optional on golf course

    photoBob Jordan hits an approach shot during a round of golf April 2 at Brambleton Golf Course in Ashburn. Jordan uses a special cart to continue playing the sport he loves after losing use of his legs more than a decade ago.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Raymond Thompson

    How would you react if, without warning, your legs were taken right out from under you?

    If you were Bob Jordan, you’d persevere. You’d find a way to get out on the verdant links of Brambleton Regional Park Golf Course and continue to enjoy one of your favorite pastimes.

    “It’s a way of challenging myself, to do something I used to love to do when I was standing,” says Jordan, 48, of Fairfax. “Now I just enjoy it in a different way.”

    When the weather’s nice, Jordan is at Brambleton nearly every day, driving range balls, sharing a friendly round with friends, working on his game solo or competing in an organized league in which he is the only disabled player.

    “He is pretty amazing, with his dedication,” says Dale Riggs, general manager at the Ashburn course. “He shows the other golfers that there’s no doubt he can keep up with them.”

    Regaining his swing

    It was 13 years ago last March when Jordan, then a 35-year-old construction worker and avid recreational golfer with a single-digit handicap, saw his healthy body suddenly betray him.

    “My immune system attacked itself. Just one of those random things,” he says, recalling a midnight trip to the emergency room. “Never had any problems before that.”

    Jordan was dealing with an affliction called transverse myelitis, a malady caused by tissue inflammation that compress the spinal cord.

    He was completely paralyzed for a month, his prognosis uncertain. Gradually he regained use of his upper body, and began sweating through rehabilitation sessions at Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria.

    But his legs never did come back. He still lives under the threat of seizures, controlled by medication. His construction career halted and, for a long time, so did his golf game.

    “The only reason I quit was because there wasn’t equipment available,” says Jordan, whose only outlet was occasional one-armed practice swings in his yard. “But I can still exactly remember holes I played from years ago. I can describe a golf course I haven’t seen in years.”

    A dozen years passed without Jordan taking hacks on a golf course. Then, about two springs ago, his brothers Paul and Doug were heading out to shoot a round, and Bob wanted to do more than just observe. He was determined to return to the game he loved.

    “I said, what the heck, it doesn’t matter what kind of cart they have. I’m gonna play,” Jordan relates. “I just wanted to see what I could do. The rest is history.”

    The three went to Brambleton. By happenstance, Jordan discovered that the course had recently obtained a cart for disabled golfers, a vehicle called a SoloRider designed to allow a player to come right up to the ball.

    “It has a seat that pivots and elevates,” Riggs says. “A lot of people won’t come out because they think it’s not accessible, but it is.”

    Jordan has been a mainstay at the eastern Loudoun course since, swinging with his right hand while his left steadies himself in the cart. In the winter months he plays a couple times weekly; in good weather he’s there almost every day.

    “The support they’ve given me has been incredible,” says Jordan of Brambleton.

    Jordan now volunteers at Brambleton as a players’ assistant, helping patrons find their way on the course and keeping the grounds in shape.

    “I wanted to show that golf is accessible, and he does that in a big way,” says Riggs, the course manager since 2005. “He’s a huge asset and a great guy.”

    Turning the corner

    Jordan fashioned his own set of clubs by fastening heads onto truncated putters. He invented a method of grounding a tee and placing a ball on it using a modified clothes hanger.

    Since taking the game back up, he has seen his scores plummet from around 125 strokes per 18 holes down to around 90. He once shot an 83 last year.

    He can drive it 180 yards with his one-armed swing, putting it where he wants it to go. His goal for the upcoming season is to break 80.

    “I don’t hit it far enough, but that’s the goal,” says Jordan, who notes that he must often select unusual shots in order to get on the green.

    Playing from the forward tees, he is competitive with able-bodied golfers in one Brambleton league, and claimed last season’s championship in another for disabled golfers.

    He still plays with his brothers or his friends, but sometimes he plays in solitude.

    “I like to go out when the golf course is empty and I’m by myself. I get into a good rhythm. Sometimes I even play in the rain,” he says, laughing.

    Jordan calls golf a challenge.

    “It’s never the same. Each course is different, each hole is different. The same course could play differently on a different day,” says Jordan, who occasionally plays at Algonkian Regional Park Golf Course in Sterling as well as some Fairfax County courses.

    Seated in the SoloRider, pivoting down to address the ball before unleashing a one-armed whack, Jordan sometimes gets quizzical looks from other golfers.

    “They don’t know what to make of me,” he says. “They’ve never seen somebody do this before.”

    Jordan says he draws inspiration from disabled golfer and motivational speaker Dennis Walters, who possesses a 220-yard drive and an array of trick shots while offering a message of dedicated perseverance.

    For Jordan, golfing at Brambleton lets him improve his game in the heat of competition, just as he was doing before being blindsided by paralysis more than 13 years ago.

    “I feel younger than I am, sometimes. Well, mentally, anyway,” he adds quickly. “You’ve just got to keep on going.”

    photoBob Jordan uses homemade tools to help him place his tee and golf ball.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Raymond Thompson

    photoBob Jordan rejoices after sinking a long putt April 2 at Brambleton Golf Course in Ashburn.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Raymond Thompson



    Bob, you are a class act, a motivation and inspiration to all. I am still waiting for you to give me lessons on the course buddy. Waiting for your call. . .

    You are incredible!  I am always amazed at the courage, tenacity, innovation, and lack of self-pity of so many of the “handicapped”. But,  to think a hero like this is a member of my own family…you humble me.  What an example you set and inspiration you give.  Perhaps, it is the unhandicapped that are the truly handicapped!  We applaud you.

    Bob, sounds like you have quite a passion for golf and have created any necessary adaptations. I know that your mom (my old friend) is so proud of you. I will share this with Jack!


    May God bless you, that you could continue to be an inspiration to others!

    Angel Harris

    What an amazing story!  It is with great pleasure and excitement,as an “old” friend of your mom’s, to read about how your long history of determination shows up even years later, bringing you lots of good times and a great deal of pleasure.

    Way to go bro.  How come I never make the family news?  Maybe Christmas?

    Your 4th brother.

    If you think he’s tough with a golf club, you should see what he can do with a computer. If it weren’t for him, our family would still be using a type writer. He has saved us from more than one late night computer crisis. Thanks Bob!!

    This is why I love you Bob(Hulk), we could all learn something from you.

    Give this guy a hand, but never give him any strokes because he’ll beat you!  Keep it up Bob and I’ll see you at the links!  By the way, Brambleton is looking good.

    This guy is Awesome!
    Must be the Cramer in him.
    Keep it up Cous!

    I’m proud to call Bob my friend. He is an inspiration and just plain fun to be around. Though he’s not my best friend when he’s beating me at the course. Great guy to play a round with.

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