PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – A Bay County veteran is using the game of golf and a unique device to help others with PTSD and disabilities get back on the course.

Air force and Air National Guard veteran, James Tipton, or “Tip” as he’s known by his friends, has always had a knack for the game of golf.

His life was turned upside down after an accident left him a Paraplegic, and he thought he would never play golf again. One day, he was introduced to a special organization with a special decision.

“To be honest with you it truly saved my life,” Tipton said. “I was in a dark place for five or six years hooked on opioids, benzos, alcohol, and suicidal ideations, and when I was introduced by the Stand Up And Play Foundation to this cart, it was a game-changer for me, literally not just the game of golf but the game of life.”

The Stand Up And Play Foundation is a national non-profit that helped develop a unique chair called a Paramobile. This device made golf once again possible at a high level for Tipton.

“The chair is an erector seat,” Tipton said. “So it stands you up, sits you back down with a joystick, drives to the ball, (you) stand up, hit, sit back down, drive, your clubs hang on the side so it’s like a golf cart, but also an electric wheelchair.”

Tipton was Paramobile by the foundation but he wasn’t satisfied knowing there were others like him who didn’t have the same privilege.

“I told them, I said this is not good enough for me, I needed more,” Tipton said. “And they said, ‘What do you mean you need more?’ I said ‘I need another cart, I need something, I want to give back to the veteran community, what can I do?’ So they awarded me a second cart so I could build this chapter.”

Fast forward to the present, Tipton is the Director of the Florida Panhandle Golf Therapy Alliance, and partnered with Stand Up And Play to establish their first chapter in the Panhandle.

He focuses on helping veterans with PTSD, members of the Fire, Police, and EMS services, and also children with disabilities.

Navy veteran and former firefighter, David Hollenbach, said coming to Tipton’s golf therapy meetings can be life-changing.

“There’s been a stigma associated with PTSD,” Hollenbach said. “And really I feel like it’s kind of considered a weakness if you reach out to get some help and so stand up and actually get the help you need, I think is an act of courage in and of itself.”

The Stand Up And Play Chapter in the Panhandle is only getting started but Tipton expects his passion to only grow.

“My goal eventually is to go from Mobile to Jacksonville and help as many veterans, PTSD veterans, children with disabilities, Fire, Police, and EMS and just grow across the panhandle as far as we can,” Tipton said. “This is my passion, this is my passion, and as many people, as I can help, I’ll just do it as long as I have the ability.”

For those who want to get involved with Tipton and his golf therapy, they will be meeting at Bay Point Golf Club in Panama City Beach every Tuesday morning beginning with a coffee social at 8:30 a.m. CST.