Five English golfers are showing that they won’t let disability get in the way of playing the game – and they’re hoping their stories will encourage more people to take up and enjoy the sport.
Aimi Bullock, Lewis Eccles, Mike Gays, Terry Kirby and David Youens are sharing their experiences following the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which shone a spotlight on disability sport. However, many disabled people still find it difficult to get involved with sports and physical activity.
The English Federation of Disability Sport set out to encourage disabled people to be more active through its recent campaign ‘Together We Will’, and England Golf, the governing body for amateur golf, is working with clubs and counties across the country to help and encourage more people with disabilities to play golf.
Jamie Blair, England Golf Disability Manager, said: “It is incredibly important that golf is available to everyone, whether they are disabled or not. At England Golf, we are working hard to help encourage as many disabled people as possible to play golf though a number of initiatives, including our ‘Get into golf’ campaign. People can head to www.getintogolf.org to find out about beginner courses, taster lessons and special events at clubs and ranges nationwide.”
Find out more with these inspirational stories:
Aimi Bullock, 43, from Surrey, (pictured top, images © Leaderboard Photography) has multiple sclerosis but has refused to let the condition alter her life and competitive nature. “I try and do something golf-related twice a week just to stay active and keep myself feeling good,” she said.
She added: “Golf is a great sport for disabled people as anyone can play. It isn’t as demanding on your body compared with other sports. It’s a great way to keep playing competitive sport and stay sharp physically and mentally.”
Lewis Eccles, 15, from Rotherham in Yorkshire, was diagnosed with autism when he was nine. He had started playing golf aged seven and the game has helped him become a confident, happy young man.
His father, Peter, said: “The relaxed, social nature of the sport has really helped Lewis’s development, his confidence levels and social skills. It has also helped our family get closer together too. We are all passionate golfers and it is the only sport that we can all play together.”
Mike Gays, 27, from Huntingdon, was born with one leg shorter than the other and, after more than 20 operations, his right leg was amputated at the knee. He was always a keen golfer but struggled to walk the full 18 holes before his surgery. Now he has returned to golf, reduced his handicap to its lowest ever level of four and encourages team-mates from other disability sports to try golf.
He said: “Golf is a perfect sport for disabled people and amputees. It’s an active and social sport, but one that isn’t too physically tough on the body.”
Terry Kirby, 60, from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, became paraplegic and unable to walk at the age of 38 after developing a tumour on his spinal cord. He took the advice of his physiotherapist to try handigolf, playing from a seated position, and he will be the 2017 senior captain at Tapton Park Golf Club in Derbyshire. Terry is a regular competitor and actively encourages other people with disabilities to try golf.
“Golf is such a fantastic sport for disabled people. You are able to play either on your own or with friends, no matter if they are disabled or not,” he said.
David Youens, 53, from Oxfordshire, played rugby and golf professionally before being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “I have always taken my sport very seriously, so learning about my diagnosis was a massive shock to the system. It took a long time for me to be confident in my health and ability to get back out on the golf course,” he said.
“I’m really pleased that I have got back involved in the game. Although I’m not playing to the same level as before, I’m enjoying my golf and my handicap is improving all the time.”