A new adaptive golf program based at Houndslake Country Club is helping Bill LeMay and other people with physical disabilities get back into the swing of things.


“Every once in a while, I hit a shot like I used to be able to, and it makes me feel good,” said LeMay, who must be connected to a source of oxygen at all times because of health problems.


A retired geologist who moved to Aiken in 2007, LeMay was among the eight golfers that showed up for Tuesday's clinic. Last month's inaugural clinic at Houndslake attracted five participants.


“We're growing,” said Vicki Greene, who is the vice president of development for the Walton Foundation for Independence.


Based in Augusta, the Walton Foundation is teaming up with The First Tee of Aiken to offer the adaptive golf program at Houndslake from 10 a.m. until noon on the third Tuesday of each month through at least October. Another clinic might be scheduled for November if there is enough interest.


“It's going great, and we're looking forward to our number of golfers increasing as we continue to get the word out about the program,” Greene said.


More clinics are planned for next year, starting in March, and that's good news to LeMay.


“This gives me something to look forward to,” he said.


LeMay, 80, attended Carleton College in Minnesota, and he was the captain of the school's golf team.


“I also made the quarterfinals of the state amateur tournament in New Mexico, but that was way in the past,” he said.


Even after his glory days as a serious competitor were over, LeMay still enjoyed playing golf, and he could be found on a course two or three times a week.


But then, nine years ago, LeMay was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, and the disease made it more difficult for him to stay active. He later developed pulmonary hypertension, which slowed him down even more.


For about two years, LeMay hardly ever picked up his golf clubs.


“It's so easy when you're handicapped to just stay in the house and not get out,” he said.


But any thoughts of idleness went away when LeMay discovered the Walton Foundation's adaptive golf program.


He began attending the organization's clinics in Augusta earlier this year, and then when the program expanded to Aiken in July, he started going to Houndslake.


“I didn't have a lot of expectations; I just wanted to get back to trying to hit the ball again,” LeMay said.


On Tuesday, LeMay practiced on the driving range using a variety of clubs.


“I hit some good shots, and I hit some bad shots,” he said. “But overall, I was pleased. I did better than I thought I would. I really connected with the 6-iron today, and I got to feel that ‘wow' sensation again.”


LeMay had to sit down in a folding chair and rest frequently while taking his swings. But that didn't seem to diminish his enthusiasm.


“Golf courses are pretty places, and it's nice to be here and experience the beauty,” LeMay said. “There also are some wonderful folks involved in this program, and it's fun to talk about golf with them.”


LeMay knows his limitations, so he doesn't see an 18-hole round in his future. But he does hope to progress to the point where he'll be able to play nine holes of golf again.


“Beyond that, I would really be pushing it,” he said.


The Walton Foundation brought two adaptive golf carts to Houndslake on Tuesday, and Greene wants to keep one there for Aiken program participants to use to play or practice between clinics. She was busy working out the details of that plan while several volunteers assisted the disabled golfers.


For more information or to get involved in the Aiken adaptive golf program, call Greene at 706-823-8584.


Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.