|The complete group supporting the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters
Golfers with disabilities received some first class tuition at the stunning Buckinghamshire Golf Club on Friday, ahead of the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters taking place at the same venue on July 26-28.
A total of 10 pupils received short and long game coaching from PGA professionals Craig Thomas, of the Golf Academy and Sarah Bennett, the Head PGA Teaching Golf Professional at Three Rivers Golf Course, along with Ladies European Tour stars Hannah Burke and Henni Zuel as part of the ISPS Handa PGA Academy Programme.
ISPS Chairman and Japanese Philanthropist, Dr Haruhisa Handa, has campaigned relentlessly to make golf accessible to blind and disabled golfers and through the initiative that was launched last year, the programme is going from strength to strength.
Under clear blue skies and in temperatures topping 27C, Mark Helm, Tony Lloyd, Matthew Spellar, Nathan Hill, Dave Reany, Gina Collier, Mark Fosbrook, Mark Smith, Chris Foster and Roger Hurcombe enjoyed a perfect day of golf.
The 10 pupils with Sarah, Craig and Hannah Burke
The group was divided in two and the golfers took part in a variety of different putting and chipping challenges to improve their pace, direction, rhythm, tempo, technique, precision, distance, measurement, accuracy and precision.
The aim was to improve the most important parts of the game in a relaxed and enjoyable setting, whilst at the same time having fun in a competitive environment.
For Thomas, who has worked tirelessly on the programme in an effort to raise the profile of blind and disabled golf, it is a rewarding experience to give the students something they will never forget.
He was presented with the Midland PGA Professional of the Year Award for 2012/2013 and he said: “This just proves that hard work does pay off.”
After an hour and a half of short game coaching, the group went to the driving range and warmed up using ‘Golf Band’. Once their muscles were ready they hit some powerful long shots.
Again, Craig and Sarah, together with Henni and Hannah, gave some swing advice. It was extremely impressive to watch Chris Foster hitting his driver from one leg.
(Click here to watch video on YouTube).
Following the clinic, a blind driving competition took place to enable everyone to experience the difficulty of hitting balls blindfolded. Despite this and the fact that the players couldn’t see their ball land, there were some excellent shots.
LET member Henni Zuel, shared her warm-up routine and how she prepares for a competitive round, as well as the focus of her practice sessions.
Henni Zuel during the putting session
When asked about the day, she said: “It’s been fantastic. I had no expectations really before coming here but I feel really proud of golf today: the people that it can reach out to and the levelness of it - because these guys are not different, if not better than most able regular club golfers in some clubs - and it is really, really impressive. I feel really privileged to be part of it and to see it: it is very inspiring. I am very happy for coming here.”
Fellow LET member Hannah Burke said: “Today has been great; we have met lots of new people with completely different ways of looking at life and how they play golf so differently and take everything on board is just amazing and it is hugely exciting for us and puts a lot of things in perspective in the way that we play golf and the way they do. Everyone is happy when the sun shines. Everyone can play golf!”
Hannah Burke using Tony Lloyd's driver
Former LET tour player Sarah Bennett added: “A hugely successful day, I look forward to continuing this work within the PGA and returning to the ISPS HANDA Ladies Masters with the golfers at the end of the month.”
The feedback from the amateur golfers was equally positive. Gina Collier, who has osteoarthritis in her knees, hips, shoulders and lower spine, said: “Today is what I would call ‘amazeballs’, as it’s been really good; I picked up some great tips!”
Tony Lloyd, who has Phocomelia, commented: “It has been very good today because we have been focusing on putting and short game, which is great, as they are both the weakest parts of my game currently. I really got a lot out of that. I learn a lot on the putting: I realised today that my tempo was not right, so we have been looking at that with the help of the girls, which it has been fantastic. And then on the chipping, that was really good as well! I hope my handicap will improve, since putting is the thing that has let me down this year.”
Blind golfer Nathan Hill commented: “I love it! Golf is one of the best sports I have ever played…and now I have the chance to do it, thanks to Craig. You laugh, socialise and have a great time.”
Blind golfer Matthew Spellar commented: “Today it has been very useful with help with chipping and putting, giving us new techniques and also giving some ideas of how to improve your short game…that has been very useful. The help from the ladies from the European Tour has been very helpful and informative with how to think of new ideas and how to work on the short game.”
Mark Helm said: “It has been a wonderful time and I have learnt a lot,” while fellow disability golfer Roger Hurcombe commented: “I think it has been a really good day. Craig and all of you have done a really good job. It has been an inspirational day for me, to join other disabled golfers at a clinic especially for disabled golfers, that is absolutely brilliant. I have learnt so much, it is hard to say what was best, because I have learnt so much today: the chipping, the putting… and I have had some tips from Henni and Hannah on chipping… that I am going to try in my game later on.”
The Ladies European Tour would like to thank everyone who contributed to the day including Craig Thomas, Sarah Bennett, Hannah Burke, Henni Zuel and Golf Monthly for covering it.
Disabled golfers can also take advantage of a similar scheme with free lessons during the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters at The Buckinghamshire, where people with and without disabilities are welcome to come along and have a go.
Entry is free for those with disabilities, under-16s and PGA professionals. Advance season tickets are available for just £10 upon pre-registration at www.ladieseuropeanmasters.com. A portion of the admission fee will be used toward raising monies for good causes, namely ISPS HANDA, which is committed to promoting blind and disabled golf.