Golf matters to Jamie Douton and, fortunately for him, it matters to the Groton Parks and Recreation Department.
Neither Douton, 48, nor Turner Donnel, his best friend of 38 years, had golf at the top of the list when they considered what life would be like for Douton after he was paralyzed below his shoulders in a fall from a roof last July.
But it wasn't far down the list, Douton said.
The two men have played golf together for 10 years. With Vaughn Dowsett and Dawn Mather, they make up a foursome that had played four straight years in the annual Groton Elks golf tournament at Shennecossett Golf Course.
"When I got hurt it was one of the first things I thought of," Jamie Douton said the day before the tournament. "'I can't play in the Elks tournament.' But because of the cart, and the fact that the tournament is at Shenny, I won't break the string."
An adaptive golf cart has allowed Douton, whose seems to have unwavering intestinal fortitude, to keep playing the game he loves.
Jerry Lokken, Groton's manager of recreation services, said the department bought the cart a few years ago with seed money from a donor and the balance from the town.
Douton has full function in his arms, which allows him to drive the hand-controlled cart. Partial movement in his legs lets him use the swivel seat to pivot to the side of the cart and hit golf shots with his right hand while supporting himself with the other holding on to the steering wheel.
Douton started playing golf about 12 years ago, he said.
"I never learned to play," he said with emphasis on the "learned." "I was never very good - Let's just say, my game hasn't suffered much from my injuries. My drives (go) 125 yards now. They are short, but they're straighter. I can't reach the woods."
But he is still is grateful, he said, and not just for golf. He said his wife Monica cares for him without aid of a visiting nurse. He also gets help, company and comfort from his sons, Nick and Sean, and their wives, both named Jessica, and his son Jamie.
"Monica's been everything, my coach, best friend, visiting nurse. She takes care of me without worrying about herself. You don't realize how much people mean to you," he said. "They held a few fundraisers for me. I didn't know I knew so many people, let alone that they liked me."
He's grateful for Turner Donnel, too, he said.
"Turner's been my best friend for 38 years," he said. "He's always been there for me."
Douton said when he mentioned to Donnel that he had read about adaptive golf carts, Donnel remembered a story about the adaptive cart.
Donnel talked to Todd Goodhue, the head pro at Shennecossett.
"We looked into it," Douton said. "He had my clubs adapted so when I sit on the cart the (bottom of the club) is level to the ground, not pointing up in the air. Yeah, he's the reason I am back golfing."
Donnel said it was Douton who introduced him to the game. But it was Donnel who became so enamored with the game that he found work in the industry, at Birch Plains driving range and Dick's Sporting Goods. The two often made spring and fall golf trips that coincided with the opening and closing of Donnel's cabin in Maine.
Donnel took Douton and the cart to Birch Plains before playing at Shennecossett.
"Shenny let us bring it to there for a week," Donnel said. "That was really nice of them to do. He played there two or three times."
The kindness made all the difference to Douton.
"Between him and Shenny, I'm playing golf again," Douton said. "Todd always manages to find us a tee time when we don't feel rushed and we are not holding up the course. They've been very accommodating."