The R&A hosted a Symposium on Golf for the Disabled in St Andrews last month when several speakers from the world of golf addressed delegates on issues including the Modified Rules of Golf and the potential for golf’s future inclusion in the Paralympics programme.
The two-day meeting was opened by non-commissioned officer Stewart Harris, an inspirational figure and ambassador for Golf Wales, who spoke candidly about his life experiences following a harrowing incident while on tour in Afghanistan and the many benefits which golf has provided in his recovery, both physically and mentally.
Inspired by golf
“I was introduced to a Falklands veteran one day who took me out to a golf driving range,” said Harris. “I hit balls left, right, around my feet but I remember one that I creamed right down the middle and it just felt amazing. I can still feel that grin now as it was then.
“I just want to hit that perfect ball and since then golf has given me everything. I have my family, a good job and a nice home. And it’s all because of what golf has done for me. I’ll play 9 holes, 18 holes on my own, or with strangers. It’s better than any therapy or medication I’ve ever had. I just want to thank everyone who works in golf for making it such an amazing sport.”
Golf and disability
Monique Kalkman, a two-time Paralympic champion in wheelchair tennis and table tennis and a member of the International Tennis Federation Hall of Fame, delivered a presentation on the athlete’s view of the Paralympics and the potential for golf’s inclusion in the Paralympic programme and the benefits that may result.
Other topics covered during the symposium included the work that many national associations and federations are undertaking to develop and advance disability golf, including focussing on an individual’s ability rather than disability and making golf more inclusive and accessible to give everyone the opportunity to experience the many benefits which golf can provide.
Speakers who presented included Tony Bennett Tony Bennett President of the European Disabled Golf Association, International Golf Federation chief executive Antony Scanlon, Simeon Hart of the World Deaf Golf Association and Derrick Sheridan of the International Blind Golf Association.
Speakers from The R&A
Representatives from The R&A’s Rules, Equipment Standards and Handicapping departments presented on upcoming projects and developments in the game of golf, including the World Handicap System, the Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities, Equipment Rules and Ranking for Golfers with Disabilities.
Kevin Barker, Director – Golf Development at The R&A, said, “A number of interesting and thought-provoking topics were discussed during last week’s symposium which highlighted the work being done to develop golf for the disabled to make it more inclusive and accessible.
“We were also excited by the developments and progress being made to include golf in the Paralympic programme and mirror its status as a major sport in the current Olympic roster.”