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Tim Nicholson's family has been making stuff in St. Paul as Actus Manufacturing since 1953 — electronic signs and things that use microprocessors, mostly. But when a Florida neighbor who has MS told Nicholson he sure wished somebody could make a better way for people who cannot walk to get out on a golf course and whack some balls, he started making some calls.

VertaCat, a stand-on-command golf vehicle modeled after the ParaGolfer by Ottobock, hit the market a year ago. It is manufactured in St. Paul. Eye On St. Paul recently chatted with Nicholson over Zoom to learn more about his work to help disabled golfers rejoin the game they love. This story was edited for length.

Q: Tell me a little bit about where the idea came from.

A: Well, I have a neighbor in Fort Myers that I live behind that has MS. And when I started playing with him, he could walk and play fine. But as his MS progressed, he couldn't walk anymore. He found a company out of Germany called Ottobock and he started using what was called a ParaGolfer. And he was looking for somebody in the U.S. to make these. I called the sales guy for the ParaGolfer and he says, "You're an answer to my prayers. I just got notified that Ottobock is not going to make them anymore and I need somebody to make this equipment for me."

Q: What does it do?

A: It serves multiple uses. But the first thing we decided to go after is for golfers, golfers who are challenged to walk or can't walk at all. People that are paralyzed and have no or very limited ability to stand up. Like many people, I haven't known many handicapped people and didn't realize the problems they had to get out. And so, we designed this device that basically stands the person up that can't stand on his own and allows him to play golf or shoot, go shooting or archery or go on trails. It's really a kind of an all-terrain vehicle that allows people to stand up.

It allows somebody that loves the sport to be able to continue in the sport. The people who are sitting on their couch don't know there's an opportunity for them to get out and do the things they love. Now we have a product that allows them to do that and it's very fulfilling.

Q: Tell me about your St. Paul connection.

A: My dad started a business in 1953 and made a bunch of different things. We made changeable message signs that you see on the freeways, and we made controls for construction equipment and, at one time, we were an engine distributor. Anyway, I also have a group of engineers that I said, "Hey, we need to make this device." And we were fortunate that we were able to see what the ParaGolfer did. My partner, he was able to say, "Well, these are the things you should improve on." And we had one out in the field in 18 months, which I think is really quick.

Q: What were the improvements?

A: Everybody wants to go a little faster. So that the big challenge was speed versus stability. And one of the other real challenges was to stand someone up without getting any relative motion from behind.

Q: What is the best round somebody has played in the VertaCat?

A: Our first guy is 19 years old [Max Togisala] out of Idaho. He went to Pinehurst to the Adaptive Open and shot a 70 — 2 under par — the record for the seated division. He's now kind of our ambassador. We use him all the time for telling people how we changed his life and his golf game. He was in a skiing accident, but he was an avid golfer before.

Q: How much is this going to set me back if I want to buy it?

A: That's the challenge because we make still relatively few. Our price is $29,700. So, it's expensive. We're just starting to do the marketing on it now. I want the guy on the couch to go to the golf course and say, "Hey, you should get one of these." Then the golf courses know that there's a product that can meet those needs. And we're also trying to let people know that there's foundations that can help them. There's events that they could do at their local golf course for a fundraiser.

Q: How many of these have you sold?

A: We're at 70 now, so very few. We're really just getting started. I have gone up out on a couple of deliveries on these. And the person stands up [to take a shot] and he hasn't stood up for a couple of years. And he's there with his wife, and they both have tears in their eyes, and they hug each other. I mean it's one of the most heartwarming things. People say, "Man, this is going to change my life."

I mean, what a neat thing, right? It's not that we're not going to make a buck or two on this. But having a product that has that kind of effect on people — talk about rewarding. And it really is.