Adaptive golfer Doug Shirakura

Adaptive Golfer Doug Shirakura Hopes To Inspire

Playing in the inaugural United States Golf Association’s (USGA) Adaptive Open, being a top-ranked adaptive golfer in the United States, securing a clothing sponsorship from Nike Golf—there’s no question Doug Shirakura ’24 has a lot to be proud of.

One of his favorite moments, however, didn’t come from the golf course, but from the social media app formerly known as Twitter, specifically from the account of professional golfer Max Homa.

“He’s known for being a big comedian on there,” Shirakura says, explaining that Homa’s online presence features a mix of golf commentary and the playful roasting of golf swings. After the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open (which he simply refers to as “The Inaugural”), a reporter posted a video of Shirakura practicing his swing. The video eventually made its way to Homa’s feed, and instead of engaging in his typical banter, Homa was impressed, retweeting the video to his 600,000+ followers with the comment, “This is one of the purest moves I’ve ever seen.”

“It was the coolest thing ever,” he recalls with a laugh. “My dad printed out a screenshot of it and has it framed up in the house.”

A Family Affair

Shirakura was born with amniotic band syndrome, a condition where his body’s development in the womb was hindered by amniotic bands, making his hands and right foot unable to fully form. When he was very young, his parents made the difficult decision to proceed with an amputation below the knee so that Shirakura could grow up learning how to use a prosthetic, allowing him to be more active in his youth.

His parents introduced him to golf at the age of seven. As he grew older, he regularly played after school with his dad, and then moved on to tournament golf and golf camps before starting to seek out tournaments specifically for amputees. The first search result was the Eastern Amputee Golf Association (EAGA) and its executive director, Bob Buck.

“I emailed him and asked if I could come play, and he was thrilled,” Shirakura recalls. “He said, ‘Absolutely,’ told me to bring my whole family and that they could play, too. I’m 13, 14 years old, and the average age of golfers there was like 40. Bob was so nice to me. He was so generous and open, talking with me and introducing me to the other players. I still see those people pretty often. It’s like an extended family.”

An Inaugural Opportunity

That experience opened up an entirely new world of golf for Shirakura, who dove even deeper into the adaptive golf scene without hesitation. As he gained and perfected new skills, he was chosen to compete in the USGA’s inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open in 2022 at North Carolina’s Pinehurst No. 6.

“It was amazing,” he says of the opportunity, where he ended up placing ninth. “This is the first major event they’ve put on for adaptive golf on this international level stage. It’s an experience most people will never have, and to be able to compete in it was just really special.”

There isn’t a single story you’ll hear from any of these adaptive players where you won’t be amazed by what they’ve overcome to get to where they are now.

Shirakura has gone on to compete in tournaments in Canada, England, and beyond. They’re all incredible opportunities—and even more incredible memories—but for him, the part that he most looks forward to is simple. “Everyone’s stories are amazing,” he says. “There isn’t a single story you’ll hear from any of these adaptive players where you won’t be amazed by what they’ve overcome to get to where they are now. That’s what I love.”

One story, in particular, is especially close to Shirakura’s heart: that of his friend, Brian, an amateur golfer himself who acted as his caddy at The Inaugural. Just a few short months later, Brian was in an accident that left his left arm paralyzed. The accident reintroduced him to the adaptive golf community, this time for entirely different reasons as he continues on his road to recovery.

“To see him reach out to players when he needs help, to find players he relates to and is motivated by, to get better because of golf, it’s so amazing,” Shirakura says. “It doesn’t come without its hardships, but he’s done an incredible job of being motivated by golf rather than put down by it.”

He adds Carlos Brown, one of the top golf coaches in the United States and an amputee himself, has been an important influence in his life. “He’s really believed in me over the past five years and I owe him a lot.”

Crimson and Green

Initially having chosen WPI due to its strong academics, especially in engineering, Shirakura has made a name for himself not only as a member of a handful of student clubs, but as a golfer and golf fan, which has shown him WPI’s supportive community time and again.

“I really wouldn’t trade any of the experiences I’ve had—not only with my friends and other students, but with faculty and staff—for the world,” he says, adding that he had a tee time scheduled with Dean of Engineering John McNeill, who has competed in the U.S. Senior Amateur Golf Championship.

While Shirakura hasn’t had as much time to practice, play, or compete in upcoming tournaments due to schoolwork, (he’s on track to graduate in 2024 with a degree in aerospace engineering), he’s confident that his focus on academics now will eventually get him to a place where he can build upon his passion for golf in the future—both on and off the green.

“There’s a ton of overlap in terms of golf equipment and engineering,” he says. “When you hear ‘engineering’ and ‘structures’ and ‘materials,’ you think of cars and rockets. But in reality, it applies to every aspect of our lives—including sports. There’s a particular focus on improving clubs and aspects of your game through equipment, and what I’ve learned in my classes at WPI has opened that door for me as a potential career. I can apply my skills to bring a fresh set of eyes—as a player and as an engineer—into the industry.”

But regardless of where his future career ends up taking him, one of Shirakura’s main goals remains the same: to share adaptive golf with as many people as he can, and maybe even inspire them to pick up a club, too.

“You know, I genuinely believe sports gives people a feeling of purpose,” he says. “Whether it’s joining amputee soccer or becoming a rock climber or powerlifter, to believe in yourself, that you can be as good as anyone else regardless of your disability. Go as high and as hard as you can.”

Reader Comments


  1. R
    Robert P. Lombardi, Esq.

    Douglas is a former student and friend. He plays golf at a championship level. I have hosted Doug at The Worcester Country Club, the site of the first Ryder cup. He played brilliantly both times. Playing in front of our club head professional he missed a hole in one on the par three 8th hole by about 3 inches. Doug is very competitive and focused on the golf course but is also a quiet and gentle man. He is a great role model for adaptive players . I am proud that he and I are friends.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Please fill in all required fields marked *

When posting a comment, you are stating that you have viewed and agree to the posting guidelines.

All comments will be reviewed prior to posting and any comments that violate these guidelines will not be posted.

Other Stories

Women’s Cross Country, Men’s Soccer make NCAAs A group photo of the women's soccer team and the two men's team members who competed in the NCAAs.

Women’s Cross Country, Men’s Soccer make NCAAs

Grace Hadley earned All-America status with a fourth-place overall finish to help the women's program to a 27th place effort at the 2023 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.

Read Story
Predicting NFL Player Performance Illustration of NFL player

Predicting NFL Player Performance

Students analyze whether data from a NFL scouting event can predict performance during real games.

Read Story
Pitch Perfect Gabriella Hoops at the 2023 Women's World Cup

Pitch Perfect

Gabriela Hoops ’19 operates at the crucial intersection between sports and tech.

Read Story
Click on this switch to toggle between day and night modes.