Increasingly, at golf tourneys, disability is no more a handicap

V Krishnaswamy Southport | Updated on May 09, 2019 Published on May 09, 2019

The European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) chief says the game is willing and able to embrace golfers of all abilities

European Tour announces two tournaments for golfers with disability

The European Tour took a huge step in the direction of inclusivity in golf, as it announced two tournaments for Golfers with Disability.

The two two-day 36-hole events will be run alongside two of this season’s biggest Rolex Series events, at the Scottish Open and the Dubai Finale.

This will gladden the hearts of Ranveer Saini and Diksha Dagar, two young and talented Indian golfers.

Saini was discovered with autism at the age of two, but now plays golf well enough to win international laurels. Apart from four medals at four successive Asia-Pacific Golf Masters, Saini also won a gold medal with unified partner Monica Jajoo at the World Special Olympics in Los Angeles in 2015.

Dagar has gone way beyond. Born with a hearing impairment, Diksha, encouraged by her father, Narender Dagar, and with hearing aid, is now one of India’s top women golfers.

Leading the way

In March, she became only the second Indian to win a title on the Ladies European Tour (LET). She is also the leader in the race for the LET’s ‘Rookie of the Year’, which Aditi Ashok won in 2016.

At the ongoing British Masters in Southport, three golfers with disability, Juan Postigo Arce, Brendan Lawlor and Caroline Mohr, played alongside European Tour champion Paul Waring in the Hero Pro-Am preceding the British Masters.

Waring said: “It was great to play with Juan, Brendan and Caroline today to give them a chance to showcase their golfing talent. Very quickly it is not disability that is noticeable but the actual ability these athletes have for the game.”

“The crowds at the Hillside Golf Club were excellent, I would encourage all spectators in Scotland and Dubai to get out and give these guys all the support,” he added.

The Professional Golf Tour of India, the Women’s Golf Association of India and the Indian Golf Union, which conducts amateur events, could also add such golfers to their start list and ensure golf in India becomes inclusive and shows the way for other sports organisations.

While announcing the initiative of the two events for Golfers with Disability, Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “We are thrilled to make the announcement today, one which will offer golfers with disability the opportunity to play competitive tournaments alongside our professionals at two-world class venues.”

He added: “As golf’s global Tour, our core values are innovation and inclusivity and these two tournaments fit perfectly into both of those genres. This is just the start. We look forward to working with EDGA over the coming months and years as we build towards our aspirational goal of a ‘Golfers with Disability World Tour’ by 2021.”

Embracing abilities

The 36-hole EDGA Scottish Open and the 36-hole EDGA Dubai Finale will be played on the weekends of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

With Indian golfers making a mark globally, it will be most fitting to see Indian golfers with disabilities also getting a chance.

A few years ago, there was a camp for Golfers with Disability, but one heard little about it after that. Instructors and coaches are indeed available, but it would require golf organisations to go a step further by ensuring platforms for these special golfers to showcase their talent. Anitya Chand, a former India international, who coaches leading women golfers, including Vani Kapoor, has been of great help to Ranveer Saini. Surely, there are more like him.

The European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA), which has a world ranking of its own, was formed in Wiesbaden in 2000 and it is growing. The EDGA, originally focussing on the European area, now guides organisations on tournaments, training and services to golfers with disabilities.

Ten male golfers taken from the WR4GD will have the opportunity at the EDGA Scottish Open from July 13-14. The EDGA Dubai Finale will be of a similar model except the tournament will be played on Friday and Saturday (November 22-23), with eight players. Both will be featured prominently on digital and TV platforms.

EDGA President Tony Bennett said: “The vision of the European Tour to include players from the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability in European Tour events is further evidence that the game is willing and able to embrace golfers of all abilities.”

A film on Golfers with Disability is planned and a new book, MULLIGAN — Tough Love and Second Chances was released. The book showcases the power of the human spirit with 18 real-life stories ‘Golfers with Disability’.

Published on May 09, 2019

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