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Disabled golfers show media just how tough the going is
- Updated: April 30, 2016
Hitting your drive on one leg. Fairway shots with one arm. Putting blind. It sounds pretty intimidating and you bet it is tough, yet right around the world there are thousands of golfers who cope very well with these kinds of disabilities.
In fact, the 74-strong field that will contest glory in the 2016 Nedbank SA Disabled Open at Zwartkop Country Club between 2-4 May, include golfers with a variety of disabilities.
There are an assortment of leg and arm amputees, the visually impaired and deaf, a couple of paraplegics with spinal cord injuries and several who fall in the Les Autres category, which are athletes with a range of conditions that result in locomotive disorders that don’t fit into the traditional classification systems of the established disability groups.
Their disabilities have not held these golfers back, so to give the Press a better understanding of the difficulties that disabled golfers overcome, the South African Disabled Golf Association decided to let them walk in the disabled golfers’ shoes at the annual Media Dare.
Clive Korope from Media 24 spun 180 degrees after hitting a tee shot on one leg. Sandile van Heerden’s second shot veered so far off course that the Kaya Fm radio jock had to write the ball off as a ‘lost cause.’
SABC radio presenter Tshepo Khuswayo nearly decapitated his playing partners with his chip shot into the 11th green, while Vuyo Macoba from Radio Unisa may have looked dashing in a bright yellow blindfold, but his 20 metre putt to a pin 10 metres away was just plain ugly.
Sias du Plessis did remarkably well with a tee shot out of a motorized wheelchair for quadriplegic golfers, which will be used by popular Afrikaans artist Mathys Roets and former Protea cricket Darren Cullinan’s brother Ralph during the event.
‘You don’t have any rotation in your hips, so you have to rely solely on your arms and shoulders to move the ball,’ the China Central Television presenter said. ‘You usually stand over a tee shot and go through a million things to get the perfect swing, but all I could think about was not missing the ball. It felt really weird.’
Getting a sense of what disabled golf is all about and what it takes to play the game with a disability had a profound effect on the press representatives.
‘Last year we played against the disabled golfers and they beat us hands-down, so I was primed to have my revenge,’ said Van Heerden.
‘When I saw the format ‘golf with a difference’ I had to idea they were going to let us experience different disabilities. It was tough. I mean, golf is tough enough when you have two arms, two legs and two eyes. When you take any of that stuff away, you are so lost.
‘You can’t imagine how strange it feels to address the ball on one leg or to try and reach a green with one arm. The blind putting was really disorientating. They even gave us stick earplugs at the last hole to experience playing deaf. It was really bizarre. You can see, but you lose all sense of balance.
‘The disabled golfers also participated and it was really embarrassing to watch the leg-amputees hit with one arm and the one-arm bandits hit with one leg and still beat us. And then Mathys (Roets) – hanging blindfolded in his wheelchair – nearly holed out his putt.
‘It was a real eye opener to experience the game this way. We all came away from this appreciating the talent and the skill that it takes to play with a handicap. I really have to tip my hat to them.’
Korope said he enjoyed the good-hearted sparring between the disabled golfers.
‘When you are out there with them, you completely forget about their disabilities,’ the 10-handicapper said. ‘They’re just a bunch of regular guys who taunted and teased just like we do and they didn’t have any mercy on us, either.
‘When Reinard (Schuhknecht) and Daniel (Slabbert) helped to line up the guys for the blind putts, they turned Sandile so he putted into a bunker and when Daniel was ready to fire, Reinard nicked his ball. I think we were a little intimidated to play with a two-time world one-arm champion and a four-time SA Open winner, but they were highly entertaining. I came away from this unique experience with one thought – disabled golfers really give meaning to the power of the human spirit.’
Picture of James Hourigan courtesy of SADGA