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October 17, 2013

Local Golf: Razzano excels in one-armed competition

NEW CASTLE — Eleven-year-old Julia Razzano wants to see her dad golf in Europe on the United States’ Ryder Cup team one day.

Razzano’s father, Anthony, may be on his way to fulfilling his young daughter’s dream after winning a closest to the pin competition and advancing to the quarterfinals of the 13th annual North American One-Armed Golfer Association match play championship at the PGA National’s Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

“It was great — that was the first tournament of that type that I’d played in,” said Razzano, who noted the North American One-Armed Golfer Association has its own Ryder Cup tournament immediately after the more well-known version every two years. “It was quite the experience. There were challenges for both one-handed and two-handed players.

“I had a really great first day. I qualified for a shoot-out and had a chance for $50,000, but it was highly unlikely I’d make it. I hit a real nice shot and as it turns out, I was the closest to the pin of all four qualifiers. I felt like I could have done better, but at the same time, there was a lot of good players there. It was an honor to be involved in the organization and to do well.”

As an 11-year-old seventh-grader, Anthony Razzano, now 38, suffered burns over 87 percent of his body in an accidental explosion in the garage at his mother’s house and had his left hand amputated days after the accident.

About a year later, Razzano picked up a golf club and eventually developed his own technique and swing.

“It’s like any other sport — you have to learn how to adapt and how to focus,” Razzano said. “Basically, you have to learn the pace of the golf swing and you have to learn you don’t hit the ball with your arms. It’s about turning through rather than swiping at the ball. Swinging with one hand, you have to have superior balance and timing in order to hit the ball well.”

Razzano, who owns Razzano Consulting in New Castle, didn’t really start striking the ball well until a few years ago when he adapted a strap designed for golfers with arthritis to fit his needs.

“I picked up a golf club for the first time when I was 12 years old and I played 23 years without attaching my left hand to the club, but a couple of years ago, I developed a grip to attach my left hand to the club,” he said. “As a result, I started hitting the ball pretty long. Not exaggerating, I hit the ball 250, 260 yards off the tee and I can hit a pitching wedge 125 yards. My handicap went from a 20 to a 10.”

To participate in NAOAGA-sanctioned events, players must have an upper-extremity disability or a lower-extremity disability, forcing him or her to play one-handed.

The NAOAGA offers two divisions — unassisted and assisted — to its members. Unassisted players must use one arm without the help of a prosthetic device or a residual limb on the other arm, while players in the assisted division can use some sort of aid from the other arm or a prosthetic. 

“The great thing about playing in the North American One-Armed Golfer Association is you meet some people that are just extraordinary,” said Razzano, who also has his wife Katie and almost 2-year-old son Anthony, Jr., at home. “They’ve been through something traumatic in their life and have had to adapt. They’re still competitive, still playing sports and still playing at a very high level.

“People ask me why I do this or why I do that. I think it’s because I’ve been through so much in my life and have realized that you only have one shot. You might as well not waste that shot and reach for your goals. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction you get by doing your best. That’s the example I want to be my children.”

(Email: C_Corbin@ncnewsonline.com).

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