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Fri, May

Adaptive golfer Richard Dahl

Photos by Jason Lewis

Sports

Walking Rich: A Story of Perseverance. The Inglewood native and Tuskegee University graduate has not allowed a disability to slow him down.

 

 

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By Jason Lewis

Perseverance has helped Richard Dahl lead a very rich life.  Even though he is paralyzed from the waist down, he has not allowed himself to become confined to a wheelchair.  He is an avid golfer, a social media influencer, a brand ambassador, and he encourages others who are in wheelchairs to “Walk Rich.”

Dahl is able to play golf with the use of a Paramobile golf cart from the Stand Up and Play Foundation, and it did not take long for him to fall in love with the sport.  A good friend of his, Damon Whittaker, who is also an adaptive athlete (archery), encouraged Dahl to participate in the Angel City Sports and DKM Golf Adaptive Golf Clinics monthly events, which are held at the Westchester Golf Course.  

Dahl said that he was decent his first time out, and soon he was connected with PGA coach David Kulla-Mader (DKM Golf Clinics).

“I came to the golf clinic and I gravitated toward good people and a good vibe,” Dahl said.  “I started coming out here once a month, and then a couple times a week.  And now I find myself trying to compete in the U.S. Adaptive Open.”

Dahl has competed in adaptive golf tournaments sponsored by the United States Golf Association (USGA) throughout the nation, and he’s preparing for international tournaments.  He has gone through a learning curve to get his swing just right.

“My coach, DKM Golf, he’s a PGA professional, and he coaches people how to swing golf clubs for a living,” Dahl said.  “It was a unique experience because I didn’t know what I was doing as a golfer, and he really didn’t know what he was doing as a coach who was coaching an adaptive golfer.  For many years he coached people who used two legs and two arms.  We had to take a different approach.  It was special because I was able to give feedback to a PGA professional about a golf swing.  About how I felt when I swung.  We worked on different things.  I went from a two-hand swing with a one-hand follow through to a one-hand swing, and now I’m working to develop a one-hand swing that’s sustainable for me to play five to seven days a week.”

Like many golfers, Dahl tries to play as much as possible.

“A lot of people eat, breath, and sleep golf,” he said.  “When you’re on the course, it’s golf, golf, golf.  And when you go home it’s golf, golf, golf.  Once you hit that ball right, and it’s not even about the distance, but once you hit that ball right, you get that feeling.  You know it when you do it, and any golfer will tell you that’s what keeps you coming back to the course, and keeps you coming back to practice on the range.”

The USGA is pushing for golf to be a part of the Paralympics, which will come to Los Angeles in 2028.  Many of the events will be played in Inglewood, so Dahl could be a hometown hero during the games.

Dahl attended Morningside High School, and growing up he experienced the various socioeconomic environments that an inner city has.

“Growing up here in Inglewood, I would say that it creates a well-rounded individual,” he said.  “When you’re here in Inglewood, you see the different lifestyles, whether it’s those of business professional lifestyles or gang lifestyles.  You see a lot of beauty in the city, but also there’s a lot of dangers and serious things that go on in the city that you have to watch out for.  Being here in Inglewood it gives you a sense of being an intellect as well as having some sort of street smarts as well.”

Dahl also had book smarts growing up, which led him to Tuskegee University in Alabama.  While in college he had to conform to a totally different environment than what he grew up in.

“Going to a small town, where there’s just several thousand people in the whole city, and many of those people are made up of students, it was a big culture shock and it took me a while to get warmed up to it,” he said.  “Once I got acclimated to it, it was a great experience that I was able to enjoy.  From being around intellectuals who look like me, to the parties, and the culture in general.  The bands at the football games, it’s what we call the real Tuskegee experience.”

Within Dahl’s community of adaptive athletes he is a leader, as he encourages others with disabilities to participate in the various activities.  He formed those leadership abilities at Morningside High School, where he was the class president.

In 2017, a month after graduating from Tuskegee University, Dahl was paralyzed during an attempted robbery in Jacksonville, Florida.  As he drove away to escape, the robbers shot through the back of his car, hitting him in his spine.

Dahl is the co-founder of the Wheel Chair Gang, which is a lifestyle brand that promotes an empowering environment which enhances the quality of life for individuals in wheelchairs.  As a social media influencer, he creates content for his Instagram page and he sells merchandise.  He also has a documentary about his life which can be viewed on YouTube.

Angel City Sports and DKM Golf Adaptive Golf Clinics bring together adaptive golfers on a monthly basis at the Westchester Golf Course.
 

To stay up to date on Dahl’s progress, follow him on Instagram at @walkingrich