Oscar Franklin Culpepper1
|Father*||Oscar Culpepper (22 Sep 1889 - 19 Sep 1991)|
|Mother*||Ethel Charlotte Parker (26 Mar 1897 - 29 Apr 1991)|
|Charts||Benjamin (son of Joseph) Culpepper of Edgecombe Co., NC: Descendant Chart|
|Last Edited||26 Feb 2011|
- Finding a Way to be a Winner
Amputee, Frank Culpepper
An Inspiration as One of the Best Senior Amateurs
LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, September 22, 1994, Section: SPORTS, Page: C1, BY MIKE FIELDS
Frank Culpepper's appearance in the 40th U.S. Senior Amateur golf championship this week is remarkable when you consider he didn't take up the sport until he was 36 and was told he might not walk again after he fell off a house and broke his back six years ago.
Oh, yes. Frank Culpepper doesn't have a right hand, either. He lost the lower part of his right arm in an industrial accident when he was 22.
Yet here he is at The Champions, among the best senior amateur golfers in the nation, writing another chapter to his inspirational story.
He didn't qualify for the match-play portion of the tournament -- he shot 82-81 in the 36-hole qualifier. But that doesn't diminish his accomplishment of making it to a U.S. Golf Association national championship.
"This is something I've always wanted," said the 60-year-old golfer from Valdosta, Ga. "It's a dream come true. (Missing out on match play) can't destroy that. Besides, I'll be back next year and be even better prepared."
When Culpepper makes a commitment, it is best to believe he will see it through. You don't do what he has done without a ton of determination.
There was, of course, a time of despair. A month after he was married in the spring of 1956 he lost his right hand just above the wrist.
"The first four days were pretty black," he said. "The emotional part of losing a limb is worse than the physical part. It's traumatic. Most people wish they'd die instead of going through all that."
But Culpepper's wife, Kathleen, helped him through the difficult times and wouldn't let him give up.
Sports also provided a boost to his self-confidence. He developed into a top-notch fast-pitch softball player. Then he discovered golf while in New Zealand helping a friend build a church.
He balked at trying golf at first, but he was convinced if he could hit a 90-mph softball with one arm he could certainly swat a golf ball sitting helplessly on a tee.
His second time out he had a hole-in-one with his left-handed swing. Even though he had to pay a hefty bar bill (about $80) for a round of celebratory drinks in the clubhouse, he was hooked on golf for life.
When he returned home he was advised that he could get better if he turned around and hit the ball from the right side. It worked. His handicap dropped to 13.
"But after a while I was ready to give it up," he said. "I had a banana ball (a bad slice) because of my one-arm swing. I was going to quit if I couldn't get any better."
That's when he started trying to build an artificial arm/hand that would
allow him to take a regular golf swing. Over the next five years he tinkered with more than 40 types of prostheses until he found one that gave him the control and flexibility he needed.
"The first time I hit with it, I said 'This is it!' " he said. "I dropped five shots of my handicap in less than three months. I added 30 yards to my drives. But the best part was both my shoulders were going through the swing together, and that meant I could hit the ball straight."
Culpepper started playing, and doing well, in national amputee golf tournaments. He also started competing in regular events, eventually earning the confidence to think about shooting for the U.S. Senior Amateur someday.
His aim seemed awfully high after he broke his back in the autumn of 1988. But it's hard to keep a good man down: A week after the accident, strapped in steel braces, he walked his daughter down the aisle in her wedding.
"Within six or seven months I was trying to hit a golf ball again," he said.
Needless to say, he regained his form, and his appearance in this U.S. Senior Amateur speaks volumes about Frank Culpepper's indomitable spirit.
"Amputee? Yes," he likes to say. "Handicapped? No."