The USGA will bestow its highest honor, the Bob Jones Award, on Dennis Walters of Jupiter, Fla., at a ceremony on June 13, 2018, one of the highlights of U.S. Open Championship week in Southampton, N.Y.
Presented annually since 1955, the Bob Jones Award recognizes an individual who demonstrates the spirit, personal character and respect for the game exhibited by Jones, winner of nine USGA championships.
Known for his never-say-quit attitude, Walters turned the tragedy of being paralyzed from the waist down at age 24 from a golf-cart accident into a personal mission to teach golf and life lessons to a worldwide audience. His story continues to inspire fans of all backgrounds through the countless professional talks and trick-shot shows he has conducted since 1977.
Dennis grew up along the New Jersey shore and honed his game at Jumping Brook Country Club in Neptune. Through his hard work and determination, he developed into the top junior player in the state. In 1967, at the age of 17, Walters won the New Jersey Junior Championship, Caddie Championship and Public Links Junior Championship, an unprecedented triple crown. Dennis was the first and only player to achieve this accomplishment.
He attended North Texas State on a golf scholarship and finished 11th in the 1971 U.S. Amateur Championship. He had reached the final stage of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School when the accident changed his life.
Determined to return to the game he loved, Walters started hitting golf shots from his wheelchair. A friend created a mounted swivel seat on the passenger side of a golf cart that allowed him to get back on the course again. In developing this unique way to play, Walters showed that it was possible to play golf even if one has a severe disability.
In the last five decades, Walters has traveled more than 3 million miles and has made more than 3,000 appearances to energize and motivate audiences in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom – many of them for enthusiastic junior golfers and those with disabilities. He has performed in New Jersey annually always giving back and always delivering his message.
Walters uses his personal experience to challenge each person he encounters to do something in their life that they thought impossible. His message is simple and profound: with hard work, dedication and perseverance, you can achieve almost anything.
“I have been on tour for 41 years, just not the tour I imagined,” Walters said. “I started this path for myself as a mechanism to cope with what I considered to be a hopeless situation. I never knew what I could accomplish with my show or how many people it would reach. I made up my mind and was determined to do whatever I could to still make golf my career and a part of my everyday life. What I didn’t know was how it would extend past the golf community to show others what is possible under almost impossible odds.”
Congratulations Dennis. You have made all associated with New Jersey golf proud.