Meet Billy Fryar, the outgoing athlete who uses a custom titanium manual wheelchair, handcycle, basketball chair, and adaptive golf cart. Billy is an avid competitive golfer and has been involved in various Action events through the years. Having used a wheelchair for nearly twenty-two years, Billy highlights the importance of his wheelchair as an extension of his body and a positive reflection of his character. One of his recent events was the Inaugural USGA Adaptive Open Championship held at Pinehurst, North Carolina at Pinehurst #6 Golf Course.
Billy said the USGA Adaptive Open Championship was the most professional event that he has played in his life. "It was amazing to be treated as a true golfer, the hospitably of the town of Pinehurst was unbelievable."
What yardage did you play from?
5,200 yards, "It didn't feel like 5200, it was uphill a lot of left and rights and during the event, it rained one day which made the course feel longer."
Can you give us a breakdown of the divisions?
Three hundred and thirty applied. There was a total of ninety-six individuals in the field. Neurological, seated, short stature, vision, arm impairment, intellectual, leg impairment, and multiple limbs.
What was it like to compete?
"I have been doing this for five years now, fifty percent of that field was family, and the other half this was their first adaptive event. I ended up meeting new people, my pairings every day were with individuals who I have never played with before. It was truly inspiring watching others play and they were inspired by me. This is a professional/ amateur event"
"I use social media to find out about the people I will play with and try to learn about them and see what they stand for."
How do you think the Inaugural USGA Adaptive Open Championship is going to change the game of golf?
"I think has opened more opportunities for big name sponsors to come on board. I think it will change the adaptive part of it because more people sitting at home will turn on the golf channel or playing at their local courses are going to see us and think "Hey I could be part of this, or I want to be a part of this". That part of the game will grow. "
What is your favorite memory from the Adaptive Open?
"My son being my caddie. At that moment it became full circle because I taught him how to golf and I caddied for him throughout his time in junior golf during ASGA events and high school. It was awesome having him there."
How did this event compare to other events you played in?
"There's not a comparison, because with the unlimited USGA budget the opportunities are limitless. There were metal signs all over the city of Pinehurst promoting the event.
A close second would be the National Amputee Golf Association, they do a great job with their field. "
Have you dealt with any accessibility issues at any courses in Arkansas?
"There has only been one course in Arkansas that had issues with me coming to play out there. We discussed and researched my cart, they decided to let me play. Courses are eerie about people driving on their greens but once they see who I am and what I am about they are willing."
What did your practice regime lead-up look like?
"No matter what event it is I call ahead to see what the greens are. I try to chase that around Arkansas because we have so many aspects of different grass around here. I usually focus on putting because putting is the key, but I thought about when we get there and what if it rains the greens will become slow, if they let the grass grow out, they'll be slow, or if they cut them down, they'll be fast. I tried to not put a lot of practice time but practiced swinging. It's always different when you get there to the golf course. In the event, I put too much pressure on myself to perform that I didn't play the best. After the first day, I had to talk to myself and tell myself to just have fun, every day after that I got better my score was improving. It was a tough course."
What was the timeline from applying to finding out you got invited?
"It was an unnerving time because I wanted to get in. I had to apply as everyone else did but the timeline went to where the date was set, and I hadn't heard back. Everyone had received the e-mail saying they got in and kept asking "Have you gotten in?". It was all over social media, and my wife asked me if I had gotten the email, I told her "Nope I didn't get in" turns out the email went to spam. I was beyond pumped but the next thing was how am I going to pay for this? Budgeting for tournaments like this is very important."
What event are you looking forward to in the future?
"I hope to qualify for this event again. Next year there will be a qualifying setup compared to this year where it was an invitational based on your GHIN. Another one I look forward to next is the Phoenix Cup, I made the U.S team in 2020 but COVID-19 prevented it from happening. In 2024 we will be going to Scotland and playing the four-day event at St. Andrews."