Dennis Walters is a former golf pro who is paralyzed from the waist down but still can break 80 - playing out of a golf cart.

The irony is that it was a golf cart accident in 1974 that put Walters in a wheelchair and cut short his career.

But Walters, now 27, gives clinics around the country and recently visited Congressional Country Club pro Bob Benning.

Walters was ocnsidered to have a brilliant future when he graduated from North Texas State whee he lost the state amateur title in 1971 to Bruce Lietzke, now one of the top young golfers on the tour.

Walters, a native of New Jersey, returned home to work as an assistant pro for Ralph Terry, former pitcher for the New York Yankees who took to golf when the quit baseball. Then Walters worked for Bob Watson, his college coach, and finished runner-up for the New Jersey Open in 1971. But 1974 is the year he will always remember.

"It was July 21, 1974," he recalled, "and I was in a golf cart down a steep hill when I missed a blind turn.

"I lay in the hospital for two months, not knowing what my future would be. One the doctor told me: 'You'll never play golf again.' What hacked me off was that he didn't tell me I was paralyzed from the waste down."

Walters admits he was depressed. "The doctors told me to exercise," he said, "but how can you exercise if you can't move? I had to find a way to play golf again. It's my game, the only thing I ever wanted to do."

But how to play again? In the living room of his home Walters began to practice from his wheelchair.

"But it was different when I went outdoors," he said. "I found it rough going over sidewalks and then just fooling around a golf course. I don't know how many times I fell out of my wheelchair and I was a mass of scabs on my arms."

Walters is a powerfully built man from the waist up with big hands, thick forearms and big wrists. His waist is slim and he moves around on hand crutches, depending on his powerful upper to carry the burden of the braces he wears on both legs.

"I'll tell you a funny story," he continued. "I was sitting in a bar and was idly watching people swivel around on those high stools. Then it came to me.

"Why not cut the legs of a tool, mount it on a cart, and play out of a cart?"

Walters found difficulty in keeping the stool from swivelling about completely. "It was all trial and error," he said. "I had a bolt put through the cart and the chair to hold it steady. The swivel plates were angled in and I kept making improvements.

Harry Cooper - Lighthorse Harry, a onetime tour player - gave me some wooden tongs he had developed to pick up a golf ball because he had a bad back. It was ideal for me. Eventually, E-Z-Go (a company that manufactures golf carts) heard about me and give me a cart with a special seat."

The cart was in the Congressional barn mounted on a trailer. It has a perch similar to a fisherman's seat, about four inches higher than a regular seat. It swivels but can be locked in when Walters hits a drive or long irons.

"No leg action at all," he said with a laugh. "It's like playing polo on the golf course. My woods are four inches longer than normal - 48 inches. And my irons are 37 1/2 long."

Walter can drive the ball 220 yards. What about putting?

"I use my hand crutches to get on the green," he said. "Then I putt one-handed.I'm starting to break 80 consistently. I'd like to see that doctor who told me I'd never play again. It really hacks me off."

Walters lives in Englishtown, N.J., about 15 miles from Asbury Park. He plays regularly at Hollywood Golf Club in Deal, N.J.

He has his extra-long clubs especially made for him by John Cafone, president of the New Jersey PGA and head pro at Manasquen River.

"John is of the old school," Walters explained. "He's a fine clubmaker as well as a fine teaching pro - the way it used to be done."

Walters says of his situation, "of course there's frustration. No matter how much work I put in, I never fix it (being paralyzed). I can come home and if I played goo dI feel good and vice versa. It all revolves around my golf.

"But I'm not interested in any human-interest sob story about me. I'm lucky I can play. Clinics are like tournaments to me. There is the pressure-type situation there. Nobody has ever tried to promote golf as a wheelchair sport, you know, strapped in.

"A lot of what I teach at clinics applies to everybody. Bob Toski can tell you to do something but when I tell you, you gotta believe. My clinics stress fundamentals, although so much more dramatically. You gotta park the cart right, I tell them. That applies to their stance. You've gotta stand right.

"I can't change my stance I can illustrate graphically what should be done and a buy might remember that. If that's a contribution, then it's my contribution."