A popular Rev. James Cleveland gospel song implores friends to “Give Me My Flowers While I Live.'
Dennis Walters, a paraplegic golf-shot artist, deserves a bouquet of recognition while he barnstorms the U.S. with a special repertoire of golf shots, plus, a message about perseverance, life and what to do if a dream turns belly up.
“If for some reason your dream does not work out then get a new dream,' Walters says during a traveling show that includes memorable shots with clubs fashioned from a fiberglas fishing rod, an automobile water hose, a three-headed iron that simultaneously dispenses as many balls with low, medium and high flights.
Walters delivers shots from a golf cart equipped with a swivel seat that allows him to sit strapped in while his golf skills strike a cord of fascination whether his traveling show plays in Peoria or downtown Trenton.
Hold onto your seats, this is a story that lifts onlookers to high elevation.
“Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes on Dennis Walters' rapid-fire machine gun shot as he hits five balls in succession as they roll down a ramp onto a board. Before you go, check out his death-defying fire shot!' a barker might shout.
The Dennis Walters Show headlined a USGA Women's U.S. Open at Sebonack Golf Club last week while a line of the world's best female players tuned up for golf's top prize. Walters performed just yards away.
At one point, Walters gained the attention of almost twenty players as they stopped their practice to marvel one of golf's, scratch that, one of life's most spectacular stories.
Walters had the PGA Tour in his crosshairs before a golf cart accident took away the use of his legs. Almost 40 years ago, Walters lurked just days away from the PGA Tour's Qualifying Tournament, now referred to as Q-School, a six-round test that could gain him a tour card.
His original dream ended at Roxiticus Golf Club in Mendham, N.J. on July 21, 1974. No PGA Tour card for Walters. In fact, a Kessler Institute doctor shattered hope with a diagnosis that the golf dreamer would “never walk again' would “never play golf again.'
Shell-shocked and angry, Walters responded “I'm coming back to this damn place some day and I'm going to hit golf balls right off your front lawn,' he promised.
Of course, Walters did. Years after his promise, Walters pulled his trailer onto a Kessler Institute lawn, rolled out his special golf cart designed by a friend and hit balls in the Essex County West Country Club grounds across the street.
The doctor eventually walked out of Kessler Institute and congratulated Walters on his incredible rehabilitation.
“He shook my hand and told me how happy he was that he had been proven wrong. He also told me that he would never again crush another person's dreams,' Walters writes in “In My Dreams, I Walk With You,' a biography that details his journey from busted dream to sunburst inspiration.
The Dennis Walters Golf Show began in 1977 following a trip through depression, anger, and a litany of other emotional and physical challenges. More than 35 years and 3,000 shows later, Walters has assumed his position in his golf cart for a repertoire of superb golf shots buffeted by keys for dream acquisition.
The show inspires children to take advantage of The First Tee, an organization that connects youngsters to golf and nine core values that will help them succeed in life: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment,
Walters, who performs with an assistant and dog, even requests that guests adopt pets from their local shelter. His show remains a magical tour that challenges those stymied by apparent insurmountable odds to “never give up. Never ever give up,' Walters says.
His sister, Barbara, writes that “Dennis is the pioneer and trailblazer in the development of a method that has allowed thousands of disabled golfers to play (this game). He has championed the cause of golf as both a physical and mental tool for rehabilitation. His vision, perseverance, and love of golf, propelled him from the very beginning and continues to motivate him today.'
So, we arrive at the final moment of this really big show with Walters being considered as a potential recipient of the PGA Tour's Lifetime Achievement Award which honors individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the PGA Tour over an extended period of time through their actions on and off the golf course.
Created in 1996, recipients include Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Burke, Jr., Pete Dye, Deane Beman, Jack Nicklaus, George H.W. Bush Gary Player, and Class of 2013 inductee, Ken Venturi.
Venturi, a world-class player who would become equally successful as a golf announcer, fell ill and never attended his induction ceremony.
Walters is on the ballot for this prestigious award with his nomination supported by President Gerald Ford, Tiger Woods and a list of other golf enthusiasts.
Just as Walters seized his moment in time to resurrect a shattered dream, World Golf Hall of Fame members should honor him with this notable award.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Mr. Dennis Walters, a golf champion and champion of life for the ages.'
Please, give Walters his flowers while he lives.
— L.A. Parker is a Trentonian columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.