When an overturned golf cart accident left him paralyzed from the waist down in 1974, Dennis Walters’ life changed forever.
As reported by the Florida Times-Union, Walters, once a promising PGA Tour player, instead had to adjust to life confined to a wheelchair.
He’s made the most of his life, however, as Walters has remained very involved in golf by becoming a trick-shot artist and putting on the Dennis Walters Golf Show since 1977.
The 62-year-old Walters averages between 90 and 100 shows a year, traveling throughout the United States to put on a one-hour combination Golf Lessons and Life Lessons show from a swivel seat mounted on the passenger side of a golf cart. His trusty co-host and best friend is Bucky, a terrier mix Walters rescued from an animal shelter in 2008.
And when the Jupiter, Fla., resident is on the road between shows, he’s traveling in style and comfort — inside the revolutionary, specially designed Newmar Canyon Star 3911 wheelchair-accessible gas motorhome. It features a built-in wheelchair lift that allows for easy entry and departure.
Walters has been associated with the Nappanee, Ind.-based Newmar Corp. for 18 years, including the company’s sponsorship of his show in exchange for the use of a motorhome. It was about three years ago that the two parties began discussing the idea of a motorhome designed specifically for people confined to a wheelchair.
“The front half of the home would be designed the same, but the second half, we wanted to make it wheelchair-friendly,” Walters said. “This was a tremendous prototype and we built it into the Canyon Star, featuring the best of what I have had in the past and with some additional features that are even better.”
The nearly 40-foot-long Canyon Star was on display at the Jacksonville RV SuperShow, held in February at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. It drew an abundance of favorable reaction, according to Dana Drake, general manager of Dick Gore’s RV World, an authorized Newmar dealer located at 14590 Duval Place West near Duval Road and Interstate 95.
“We had a lot of positive response and we’re still getting positive response from people,” Drake said. “The wheelchair lift folds up instead of intruding into the RV, so it doesn’t do anything to hamper the move-ability inside the coach when the lift is in the up-and-folded-away position. It’s probably the best design of anything I’ve ever seen.’’
Florida Today reported that Walters was at the RV SuperShow to shoot a marketing video for Newmar and saw firsthand the response from people in wheelchairs and from those who had family members or friends confined to a wheelchair.
“We saw a lot of smiles on people’s faces, including some that were in that situation of being in a wheelchair or were on crutches,” he said. “With this design, it’s going to make RV travel possible for anyone, which I think is fantastic.”
Walters has leg braces that he uses with crutches. But that made accessing or departing the motorhome a cumbersome chore. It required the aid of his assistant, who travels with him, as he made the slow trek — one step at a time, in and out of his previous RV.
Having a lift that enables him to enter and leave the Canyon Star with relative ease has had an impact on his life.
“If I didn’t have my crutches on to leave [the motorhome], I would have to slide down on my back side and then transfer to the wheelchair,” Walters said. “With the lift, I can go out in my wheelchair on the lift. It’s so much easier, so much more convenient.
“It’s made a huge difference in my life,’’ Walters said. “I use to be hesitant to go out of the motorhome if we stopped for dinner during our travels. I would just have my assistant go get me a take-out. Or I might pass up getting out to go shopping, just because of the effort and hassle it was to get in and out.
“But now I go everywhere,” Walters said. “A lot of times, I’m tired traveling 200 days a year. Any time you can save some energy and make life easier, I’m all for it. This thing does it 100%.”