MANCHESTER — Professional Golf Association instructor Scott Mann said he often teaches his students to take swings with their eyes closed but never actually tried it himself. Until Thursday.

Mann and six other PGA instructors took part in an adaptive golf seminar at the Augusta Country Club ahead of a new eight-week adaptive golf program in partnership with the VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus.

“It was so different,” Mann said of swinging the club with his eyes closed and covered. “I had to use my other senses and get a feel, and sound and feel was all I could rely on.”

The seminar was led by Dave Windsor, an Atlanta-based instructor from the Adaptive Golf Association. Throughout the hourlong session on the driving range, the PGA pros, wearing pullovers and hats because of the unseasonably chilly weather, took part in drills designed to mimic playing golf with a disability.

Bob Mathews, of Farmingdale, is the assistant pro at Rockland Golf Course and was the first to try out the adaptive golf simulator. Mathews had his right knee bent in a device with a prosthetic leg and foot and was trying to balance while completing a full swing.

“The hard part was really balance, and it was also very tiring because I had too much weight on one side,” Mathews said. “What we learned is that anytime a veteran can get out and do something, it’s going to be beneficial to them.”

Augusta Country Club general manager Jason Hurd said swinging a club with the adaptive equipment was harder than he thought it was going to be. He hopes to get the program started sometime in June and said the course will set up forward tees in the middle of the fairways to shorten the course and make it more accessible.

“The experience has been wonderful, and we hope for the people that participate in the program that it is a life-changing experience,” Hurd said. “Golf is a great game that people can play for the rest of their life.”

Liz Marrone, a recreational therapist at Togus, said the adaptive sports program has “been really cooking since late 2013” and said the importance of the different activities to veteran well-being cannot be understated.

“It’s not necessarily about the sport or activity, but rather it’s the process and getting there and feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride,” Marrone said before taking some swings while sitting in a chair to re-create what it would be like to play golf in a wheelchair. “Recreational therapy is so individualized, so it is important to find what works.”

After the session concluded, Mann said he was looking forward to implementing adaptive golf at his club in Norway.

“The fact that veterans can still participate in things like this in life is huge,” Mann said. “To be able to bring this element to these people where they can regain their confidence is incredible.”

Windsor, who got his big break in the golf industry at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, said hearing from a veteran about the program’s effect is special.

“When you hear them talk after a program or a round of golf about how they got out there, controlled their emotions and made new relationships, it’s true therapy for them,” Windsor said. “There is such a crossover from the golf course to everyday life.”

It is also gratifying to see them absorbed in the process and learning the game, Windsor said.

“They are getting their families involved and focusing on things away from their upcoming appointments or surgeries,” he said. “It is a true escape for them to feel so much better about themselves.”

Augusta Country Club, off Western Avenue in Manchester, is a membership club, but Hurd said once the summer program is complete, any golfer who participated would be welcome to use the course for the remainder of the season.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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