Keep swinging

The 2016 Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open took place recently. CLAIRE RENCKEN brings you some of the highlights.

The South African Disabled Golf Association (SADGA) believes that golf builds character, which is an asset – whether or not you have a disability. The association is about being a golfer – the community, the sense of belonging, the drive, the passion, the motivation and the team spirit. It is in this spirit that the Disabled Golf Open is held every year.

This year marked the 18th official version of the event, and the 11th year of its partnership with Nedbank. The tournament was held at the Zwartkop Country Club golf course in Centurion on May 2-5.

It is an international amateur event, which incorporates all disabilities – the SA Deaf Championships are facilitated as a separate tournament.

SADGA is fortunate enough to have many sponsors, partners and contributors that help make this event possible every year. A few of the corporate sponsors, aside from Nedbank, include Bidvest, Canon and Mercedes-Benz.

Let’s take a look at the results…

American Chad Pfeifer rolled in a clutch putt for par at the final hole to celebrate a wire-to-wire victory, while 19-year-old Stellenbosch University student Charl Theron – a First Swing Program (FSP) learner – upstaged South Africa’s big guns to top the local challenge with a tie for fourth.

Pfeifer shot a final round one-over-par 72, to edge out 2014 champion Josh Williams by one shot to lift the trophy on a winning score of even-par 213.

Juan Postigo from Spain returned an 80 to take third on 225, while Theron closed with a 75 to grab a share of fourth on 231 to tie celebrated leg amputee Manuel de los Santos from the Dominican Republic, who shot a final round 81.

Pfeifer said he ticked a lot of boxes with this victory. “This means the world to me. I wanted to raise awareness for disabled golf outside the United States, I wanted to put this championship on the map and I’ve wanted to win this title since Josh told me about the tournament last year.

“He said it’s one of the best tournaments in the world and I was really excited to come and see for myself. It has certainly delivered on all points. The hospitality and the organisation of this event is a cut above many of the disabled and professional tournaments I’ve played and the atmosphere was fantastic,” Pfeifer says.

Theron also won the Les Autres Division (handicaps 0-18), while Byron Calvert took the honours in the Overall Nett Division on 207. The 14-handicapper carded rounds of 70, 71 and 66 to win by three shots from Johan van Wyk.

Reinard Schuhknecht won the Arm-Amputee Medal and Pfeifer the Leg-Amputee Medal.

Garrett Slattery posted rounds of 95, 93 and 94 to win the Visually Impaired Division on 282, while FSP player Charles Williams won the Deaf Division (handicaps 0-9) on 284 with rounds of 84, 78 and 82.

Leg-amputee Flip Brink also celebrated a wire-to-wire victory when he won the Overall Individual Point Stableford (IPS), handicaps 19-36. He triumphed on 108 points with rounds of 42, 37 and 29, just edging out FSP player Raylen de Wee, who took the honours in the Arm-Amputee IPS on 107.

FSP newcomer Jabu Price Moore claimed a one-shot victory in the Les Autres IPS on 101 with rounds of 37, 34 and 30, while Ralph Cullinan beat Mathys Roets for the title in their joint debut in the Wheelchair Division.

First swing to success

This year’s winner, Chad Pfeifer.

One of SADGA’s biggest successes so far (and the one it is most proud of) is its First Swing Program (FSP). The FSP is a series of clinics at participating schools across South Africa for disabled children and youth – focusing not only on golf, but on rehabilitation through golf as well.

The program is designed to introduce disabled children to golf; and through golf, to vital life skills. It offers broad exposure to golf-related industries, such as the hospitality, golf course management and public relations industries.

Through the FSP, children with physical disabilities receive golf coaching and are given the chance to participate in different golf events.

Children with severe physical disabilities who would never be able to play a round of golf on a regulation golf course are also taught the basics of golf, in order to enhance muscle movement and to get a chance to enjoy an outdoor sport activity.

“The legacy of the FSP extends much further than the golf course,” says SADGA CEO Eugene Vorster. “The program employs the rules of golf to teach children with disabilities the core values associated with the game, such as honesty, integrity, good sportsmanship, patience, judgement and fair play.

“The FSP not only gives young children therapeutic support and an opportunity to learn about golf, but also teaches them how to engage and socialise, since children with disabilities often isolate themselves. The program is safe, fun and goal-achievable and it encourages participation at all levels.”

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