Golfer Niko Manou inspires after accident limited use of his hands
Niko Manou became plagued with chronic pain in his wrists after suffering a work-related accident while building sheds in 2003.
“They’re pretty messed up. It’s like you would have bad knee problems or bad back problems, well I have them in the wrists,” Manou said of his wrists Saturday before joining his teammates at the Myrtle Beach Fire Department’s annual Rhonda Brown Memorial Golf Tournament.
After the accident limited the use of his hands, he became frustrated as he drifted seemingly without purpose and struggling with pain. It was during one of these dark spells of frustration that Manou came up with an idea that would bring a newfound direction to his life: an idea for a new way to play golf.
“I was a little angry with the world, and I kicked the ball, and my head just went crazy with my idea,” Manou said.
Manou resides in North Myrtle Beach but lived in New York when this brainchild was born. He said he put together a sketch for the special shoes that would allow him to play golf with his feet instead of his hands and sent it to be engineered by some “great guys” in New York.
A company called Dynet came up with the first couple of prototypes, Manou said. He’s now in the process of bringing it out to the world, with help from the people making the special equipment, he said.
Manou uses two different small metal plates that he snaps onto the front of his golf shoe before kicking the ball toward the hole – one is used as a multi-driver, the other for putting.
“It’s all in the manipulation of the leg and the swing and how far you are from the tee,” he said of his technique which he calls “shloffing.”
Manou tees up his ball and lines “it up like an old field goal stance” then gives it a solid kick using one of metal plates he calls “shlubs.”
He’s been teaching this method to others and soon hopes to create more “Shloffers” and “Shloffettes” and is trying to form the PSA – Professional Shloffers Association – as he continues to showcase playing golf with special shoes rather than traditional clubs, he said.
“I want people from every country, province and state to start a new sport,” he said. “It’s just an alternate way of running down a golf course. It’s exercise therapy.”
He has been working on this strategy since about 2008, and it’s brought him a healing he hopes to share with others in similar situations.
“I believe what I have here is going to bring people like in my situation a way to get out,” said Manou.
He said he’s received a lot of encouragement from people along the way to keep going with his movement and said he has people with and without “special abilities” in line to learn the technique.
He prefers the term special abilities over handicapped or disabled, he said.
“I’m not broken. I just do things a little differently,” Manou said.
He played golf some before the accident that changed his life but wasn’t deeply involved in it the way he is now. He participates in various charity tournaments as a way to give back and have fun. He’s played at notable courses in New York and along the Grand Strand.
He said he typically shoots 104 to 125 when he plays and participates more for the fun and the people than for the high of winning.
“As long as I help my team out and we do good and have fun – I already won before we even started,” said Manou just before teeing up at the Rhonda Brown Memorial Golf Tournament.
The annual tournament, which was held Saturday at the River Oaks Golf Plantation, is named for the late Rhonda Brown, a longtime administrative assistant with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department.
Brown died from breast cancer several years ago, and now the Myrtle Beach Fire Department continues to honor her memory by naming their annual tournament for her, said Lt. Jonathan Evans, with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department.
Local businesses help sponsor the tournament, which raises money each year for various charities, including the American Red Cross and Relay For Life, Evans said.
“It’s just a way for us to give something back to these local charities who do really good things for the community,” Evans said.