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Bright future beckons as ISPS Handa PGA Academy Programme hits the mark

While an array of tournament sponsorships capture the headlines around the world, the real impact of ISPS Handa can be discovered at the grass roots of the game where its support is making a huge difference to the sporting enjoyment of blind and disabled golfers.

One of the most exciting developments has been ISPS Handa’s funding of an innovative academy programme in association with The PGA which is training its professionals to specialise in coaching blind and disabled golfers.

Launched in conjunction with ISPS Handa’s sponsorship of the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship, the programme has already made an impact at grass roots golf.

To date 41 PGA professionals have taken part in five coach workshops to learn the special skills required and a further seven workshops are planned for the remainder of 2012. The workshops have been taking place at Clumber Park Hotel and Spa, Stonebridge, The Bristol, Slaley Hall and Drivetime Driving Range.

In addition, PGA regional development coach Sam Carr addressed the UK Coaching Summit in London highlighting the ISPS Handa PGA Academy Programme. The audience included national governing bodies of sport from across the UK.

Following the workshops, pros have gone on to deliver more than 300 coaching sessions to disabled golfers with a further 250 free lessons planned for the ISPS Handa Ladies British Masters.

The ISPS Handa PGA Academy Programme stands out as a first for golf, combining the skill and passion of PGA professionals and furnishing them with the techniques and disciplines to make golf accessible and enjoyable to all.

At the heart of this ground-breaking initiative is the desire of ISPS Chairman and leading philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa for golf to become a Paralympic sport. Thanks to his efforts genuine strides are being made.

The first steps of the Academy Programme were successfully launched with clinics at The ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor Resort, the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open at Archerfield Links and the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship at De Vere Slaley Hall, demonstrating the benefits to blind golfers who have responded in enthusiastic fashion to specially tailored tuition.

The first lessons were given at Celtic Manor by award-winning PGA professional Craig Thomas, who has broad experience in working with disabled golfers.

At Archerfield Links, ISPS ambassador Laura Davies watched Thomas in action and also gave a group of disabled golfers an insight into her practice techniques.

For Dr Handa, who has been supporting blind and disabled golf for more than 25 years, seeing the first lessons delivered in the name of the ISPS Handa PGA Academy Programme was a proud moment.

“As we are well aware, blind and disabled golfers face a number of challenges in developing their game and to be able to provide them with greater access to specialised coaching is something we are very proud of” he said.

The launch of the ISPS Handa PGA Academy Programme has been welcomed by Dr Kyle Phillpots, PGA director of education and career development. The project complements the PGA’s Right Coach, Right Place, Right Time coaching philosophy and Dr Phillpots paid tribute to Dr Handa and ISPS and identified their commitment to the project as a significant milestone in helping improve coaching standards for disabled golfers in the UK.He said: "Many of our members already do excellent work with golfers with a range of disabilities but this is the first time we have had the opportunity to devise a specific programme for PGA professionals interested in this field."

For Thomas, who has his own academy in Wolverhampton, the importance of the support from ISPS Handa cannot be under-estimated as it slowly begins to make an impact at grass roots level.

“The ISPS Handa PGA Academy Programme is the first step in increasing awareness of coaching opportunities for people with disabilities," he said. “It is an opportunity on two levels – to raise awareness among disabled golfers and also PGA professionals that there are demands for more coaches to deliver their skills.

“And, as we have seen, disabled golfers can play to equally as good a standard as many able bodied golfers.”

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