Katrena feels empowered to get back on the course
A chance encounter at the 2016 Australian Open changed the course of Katrena Raymond’s life.
Having suffered a stroke in 2013 – on Valentine’s Day, of all days – she naturally assumed her golfing days had been consigned to history.
Confined to hospital for the best part of a year, she had to learn to walk and talk again. Having lost the use of most of her right side, she also had to learn to use her left hand for everyday tasks.
“It took me about four years to pull my pants up properly,” Katrina revealed, proving the one thing she definitely didn’t lose was her sense of humour.
That’s just as well, as there’s little chance the members at Toukley Golf Club would have allowed her on the course half-dressed.
Before her stroke Katrena was an avid golfer, having been inspired to play after her two sons, Brandon and Corey, showed an interest in the game from an early age.
But after her stroke, she figured that whilst she could still watch others play the game she loved, swinging a club herself was beyond the realms of possibility.
That changed when Katrena met Empower Golf founder James Gribble at the Australian Open, and he suggested that she try out the ParaGolfer, a revolutionary piece of kit that raises the user into a standing position.
Fast-forward four years and, thanks to funding from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Katrena is now the proud owner of her very own ParaGolfer.
It’s probably fair to say that it wasn’t love at first sight, as it took a while to get to grips with the equipment – not least as she had to learn to swing the club with her left arm.
But with the assistance of son Brandon, who has been Katrena’s full-time carer since her stroke, she now tees up at Toukley at least once a week – weather permitting. And whilst her handicap isn’t coming down as fast as she would like, she still loves every minute of her time on the fairways.
“Brandon tees the ball up for me, and then the ParaGolfer does the rest,” she said.
“I play off a handicap of 45 so I’m not turning pro any time soon, and obviously I can’t hit as far as I used to, but I still have so much fun and it’s just amazing to think how far I’ve come since my stroke seven years ago.
“I couldn’t walk or talk or do anything really for months after my stroke, so it was pretty serious. I spent nine months in two different hospitals in total, and I lost the use of my right arm and most of the use of my right leg too, so I didn’t think there was any chance that I’d ever play golf again. But then I met James at the Australian Open, found out about the ParaGolfer, and the rest is history.”
As for the future, Katrena is keen to test herself in club competitions but “Brandon says I’m not ready for that yet – and he’s a much better golfer than I am, so I should probably listen to him”.
What she is well and truly ready for is her upcoming trip to the Hunter Valley with Brandon. They plan to play a round at the Crowne Plaza resort, before sampling some of the region’s famous wines.
So whilst the stroke has impaired her mobility, it hasn’t dimmed Katrena’s zest for life and sense of adventure.
“I’ve met some great people through Empower Golf, like me they’ve faced some difficulties but you’ve just got to try to get on with life and make the best of things,” she said.
“Getting out on the course and getting some fresh air is really good for me, it doesn’t matter too much what I shoot, it’s just nice to get out there and I always look forward to it.
“I’d like to get a coach, then hopefully I can get my handicap down and start playing in some club competitions. But if not, I’ll still be happy – life could definitely be worse.”