By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — With a couple of weeks of winter still on the calendar, a return to the links is little more than fantasy for the region’s golfing enthusiasts.
But some golfers have enjoyed a head start on the season through an exercise program hosted by the Wellness Center of CVPH at PARC.
The center’s eight-week Golfer Rx Program helps to improve strength and power in the golf swing and to minimize the potential for golf-related injuries during the season.
“It has focused mostly on fitness,” said participant Mal Cutaiar, as his group neared completion of their seventh week in the program recently. “We’ve progressed through various stages with strength and stability exercises.”
The program also included a series of tips on improving the golf swing itself from local golf pro Sean Loughan, director of golf at Harmony Golf Club.
But participants rarely pick up golf clubs during the program, focusing rather on medicine balls and exercise mats to tone muscles that haven’t been used on the golf links since last year.
“Think of your swing when you’re doing these exercises,” said program instructor John Vasile as he prepared the participants for their hour-long workout.
“We want to work on those muscles that are vital in the golf swing,” he added moments later as the golfers began working through a series of exercise stages. “We want (participants) to focus on balance as it pertains to strength, mobility and flexibility.”
Those taking part range in age and have a variety of golf skills, added Vasile, a personal trainer at the Wellness Center who is working toward certification in golf-fitness instruction.
“A lot of golfers don’t know what muscles to work (during the off-season). These exercises can help golfers prevent injury while increasing their ability to hit the ball better. They add to the consistency of the golf swing.”
Golfers pick up skills to improve their swing and overall game while concentrating on the muscles used most often during 18 holes.
“We give them techniques they can use in the future and especially during the off season,” Vasile said.
Dennis Bardelak has been involved in the program for the past three years and praises the support he has received.
“I was having posture problems (with his swing) that they were able to find here,” he said. “The exercises have improved my posture; they also help keep us from getting hurt (during the season).”
The first year of training added 50 yards to his drive, Bardelak said. He has seen improved consistency in his game each year, he added.
“I’m 63, and I recommend (the course) for anyone interested in golf,” he said. “As we age, our muscles get stiffer, and we lose mobility. This has allowed me to enjoy the game. I’m feeling really good.”
Jack Orr, 73, signed up for the course to help improve his physical conditioning as he prepares to return to the links after a couple of years off.
“It’s gone very well,” he said of the program’s first seven weeks. “I can do a whole lot more with my body than I could when I first started.”
Orr has spent some time on the driving range at the City of Plattsburgh’s Recreation Department on U.S. Oval and believes his swing has also improved.
“I can’t wait to get out (on the golf course) and try it,” he said.
Vasile’s sister, Mary Vasile, is the only woman participating in the session. She decided to sign up to improve her overall game.
“I’m strictly a beginner (at golf), but I’m feeling a lot more proficient with my strength training,” she said. “I feel more flexible with my golf swing.”
She also said the program has given her more energy in her job as a laboratory analyst.
“This is the second time for me,” said Scott Hughes of the program. “It’s training that has helped me improve my hobby, helped strengthen the skills we need in golf.
“It’s also helped with stamina,” he added. “I don’t get as winded (on the links). I have the ability to finish 18 holes strong.
Hughes has also been to the Recreation Department’s indoor driving range, where he hit about 100 balls during his last visit.
“You can see where the golf swing has improved,” he said. “My strength, my agility, they’re much improved.”
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GOLF Rx PROGRAM