EAU CLAIRE — For all the success Jason Aken has earned on the golf course, his next endeavor will take him the farthest.
The one-armed golfer from Thorp will travel overseas to England where he will participate in the 2018 Fightmaster Cup.
The Fightmaster Cup — named after Don Fightmaster, a founder of the North American One-Armed Golf Association — is an international competition between the best players from the NAOAGA and the United Kingdom’s Society of One-Armed Golfers.
“I don’t know if it has necessarily sunk in yet that I’m going,” Aken said. “It’s not just United States it’s Canada also. It’s all of North America. The best one-armed guys in North America versus all of Europe. Probably when I’m on the airplane going over there it might kick in.“
Beginning on September 18 — at the Walmer and Kingsdown Golf Course in Deal, Kent, England — the Fightmaster Cup is played in a Ryder Cup style format the week prior to the Ryder Cup.
Aken is one of 15 athletes selected to represent the best one-armed golfers in North America to play against the best Europe has to offer.
Following a workplace accident in 2010 that led to the amputation of three of his fingers on this left hand, Aken believed his time playing golf was over.
That changed when his dad got him to participate in the Mile High Showdown in Denver as part of the World Long Drive Championships where he took 22nd with a drive of 367 yards in the preliminary round against the best two-armed golfers in the world.
“With two arms I thought I was going to go somewhere, and I thought it was all over (after the accident),” Aken said. “When my dad finally kicked my butt off the couch to go to Colorado to try that, even then I thought I was going to get laughed off the stage. It just opened a massive door to everything I am at now.”
It took a while before Aken embraced his situation. He was concerned one-armed golf tournaments would make him more aware of his condition and Aken doesn’t want the accident to hold him back in life.
“If I go to a handicapped or amputee tournament I will feel more like (an amputee). I felt like I would feel weird myself or I would feel more handicapped,” Aken said. “Then I got pushed to a (one-armed event) and obviously that’s not the case at all. It’s like a huge family. It’s almost like a massive support (group). It’s awesome. It’s the complete opposite of what I thought.”
Aken has found his participation in NAOAGA to be positive and it has opened up more opportunities.
He participated in a fundraiser to raise money for the possible addition of golf to the Paralympics in Maidstone Club — located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean on Long Island, N.Y. — one of the oldest country clubs in the United States.
His addition to the Fightmaster Cup team occurred through a coaches selection following a second-place finish at the NAOAGA Winter Regional Championship in Odessa, Fla. in January and a third-place finish in the NAOAGA Championships in Odessa, Texas in June.
Aken also made an appearance on the Golf Channel in January when in Florida in a long-drive simulator challenge at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., against some of the best long-drive golfers in the world.
He also won the one-armed division at the ParaLong Drive Cup in Mesquite, Nev. in March and the ParaLong Drive Challenge at the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in Thackerville, Okla., earlier this month.
With all the success Aken has accomplished in a short amount of time he remains humble and much of his drive to be great is influenced by the goal to help others in similar situations.
“I didn’t think I would want to be with guys like me, but when I’m with them it’s kind of nice to hear stuff I’m going through is normal and I’m not nearly as bad off as them,” Aken said.
Aken wants those who have gone through accidents and have disabilities that there are others who share those same experiences. He wants them to know they don’t have to give up physical activities like golf.
That is why Aken has become a certified adaptive golf instructor.
“What helps me get through is helping others,” Aken said. “Anyone who knows me knows I love to help anyone that I can help for anything. (I want) to be able to help other people golf, because golf is therapeutic.
“For me to be where I am now, if you would have to told me that when I was in the hospital I would have laughed at you. I can show you a million guys that have a missing arm or missing leg and they are golfing. It’s never over and if you can get people to (golf) it’s amazing. To get someone who doesn’t think they can play a sport to teach them that golf is very possible, it’s awesome.”
Aken’s dream is to one day build a golf facility in the area that could support the needs of golfers with adaptive needs, similar to what the Freedom Golf Association has been doing.
The dream includes a indoor heated driving range that is opened on one side with all the adaptive golf equipment, this would allow all golfers with adaptive needs to play the sport.
The more accomplished Aken becomes the more he thinks about helping others who share similar circumstances. Lucky for them Aken has set his goals high. So when Aken travels across the pond for next week’s event, he isn’t playing just for himself, he is playing for everyone who thinks because of a disability they can’t play.
“When I first got in my accident and I had to hit one handed I told my mom I wanted to be a story on ESPN,” he said. “My thing is I don’t want to feel handicapped, nor do I ever want to feel handicapped.
“My goal is to be the best period. I think anyone would want to be the best if they could.”