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February 22, 2014

 

Golfer takes aim at helping others

GolfBob Ellis/staff photographer
Tom Hartnett takes a swing while practicing at Willowbrook Golf Course in this 2009 file photo.

By TYRONE L. HEPPARD
Staff Reporter
theppard@cortlandstandardnews.net

People who know Tom Hartnett know that he is the owner of Frank and Mary’s Restaurant on Port Watson Street, represents the 3rd Legislative District on the Cortland County Legislature and that he is an avid sports fan.
And it’s that love of sports — particularly golf — that Hartnett has been using as a way to not only connect with people from all over the world but to inspire people and raise awareness for various causes as a member and president of the North American One-Armed Golfer Association.
NAOAGA was established in 1999 in Louisville, Ky., and has around 250 members.
Hartnett said he came across the organization on the Internet and decided to join about five years ago. Since then, he has played in a number of national tournaments and was voted in as president of the organization in 2012.
Hartnett, who was born with a shortened left arm, said he grew up in a home filled with athletes and despite his disability, played a number of sports, including golf which he took up at young age.
“Golf’s been just a passion,” Hartnett said. “I took it up when I was 10 years old and the golf course was our baby-sitter for the summer. I had some friends and we’d go play golf every day. We’d play 36 holes every day, weather allowing.”
Hartnett said one of the great things about NAOAGA is what it has done for people who join and added for him, making sure people who might have been disabled recently feel welcome. They come first; golf is just an added bonus.
“There’s a lot more to it than just playing golf,” Hartnett said. “We try to bring them into the organization to show them there is life after accidents of any kind. Our motto is ‘never quit’ — that’s our mission; to help those who need our help.”
In addition, past national tournaments have been utilized as fund-raising events, with proceeds going toward causes such as the Wounded Warrior Project and Hands for Heroes, two groups that work with injured and disabled veterans.
Hartnett said NAOAGA has seen around 10 people join every year, which makes events such as the organization’s annual Meeting and National Championship to be held in Mesquite, Nev., in June so important, as they serve as a welcoming in of sorts for new members.
“When I first got into this, I sent an email to the guy who was in charge at that time,” Hartnett said. “The response I got was, ‘come down and play golf with your brothers in Florida’. It’s like a brotherhood.”
In addition, Hartnett will be joining some of the top one-armed golfers in the country to represent Team North America when it faces off against Team Europe’s Society of One-Armed Golfers in Sterling, Scotland, for the Fightmaster Cup, the one-armed golfer’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup — a privilege he has earned for the second time.
Hartnett said his organization is trying to expand its reach in the Western United States and he would like to see NAOAGA continue to grow, doing more to reach out to the disabled and anyone else who might need its help.
“It’s more towards ... getting our organization better to reach as many people as possible to help with their disability,” Hartnett said. “And any way we can help you, we will.”

 

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