Golf coach Anders Mankert, who changes lives through the sport, was honoured last night with England Golf’s Lifetime Service Award, sponsored by Bridgestone.
Mankert, from Cosby Golf Club, Leicestershire, was recognised at the England Golf Awards at the Royal Lancaster London, which highlighted all that’s great about golf in England.
Mankert was celebrated for the difference he has made to blind and visually impaired golfers and to young players making their way in the game.
Guests at the glittering, black tie event – including influential figures from across the sport, volunteers, coaches, clubs and counties – applauded Mankert for his remarkable volunteer contributions which span more than two decades.
He was nominated by blind students who put him forward for “being a unique inspiration and primarily for introducing us to the sport which has changed our life!” The judges agreed, commenting: “Anders has literally given time, expertise and selfless dedication over 20 years, helping to extend the game’s inclusivity.”
Mankert said of his award: “It’s not why I do it, but it’s a lovely, lovely thing to be recognised for your efforts and to know that people actually care. It’s quite humbling and it’s the most amazing thing that has happened in my career.”
His story begins back in the mid-1990s when he saw a group of blind and visually impaired players making weekly visits to a golf range. He realised he could help them, tentatively offered his services and has been working with them, and others, ever since, without charging a penny. “We have just carried on for the next 20 years!” he said.
Mankert, an Advanced Fellow of the PGA and an honorary life member of the England and Wales Blind Golf Association, does far more than teach the technical skills. When one of his students was unable to find an all-important guide to accompany him on the course, he persuaded a local newspaper to feature the blind golfer – with the result that 17 people volunteered to help.
When other students, often unable to work, cannot afford golf club subscriptions he contacts local clubs to ask if they will waive their fees. Some willingly open their doors, but it can also be a tough task – Mankert wrote to 15 clubs on behalf of one player and didn’t receive a single reply.
But the setbacks are far outweighed by the achievements. The player who was very depressed after losing his sight overnight and is now British No 1, has competed in world championships and counts Mankert as a personal friend. The visually impaired girl who is now able to play weekly golf with her dad. The young offender who almost blinded his victim with a shot from an air rifle and was ordered by a judge to act as a blind person’s carer for a week. “It was genius,” said Mankert, who described how the surly, unhelpful young man transformed into a phenomenal carer.
There’s also satisfaction achieved by player after player. “It strikes me that golf must be the hardest possible game for a blind person to take up,” said Mankert. “But I think they feel that if they can play golf and see some progress they can pretty much have a go at anything and you can see their confidence growing.”
There’s also satisfaction for Mankert. “I get masses out of this. I have really enjoyed it, it’s very rewarding to see how something small on my part, giving up a little bit of time, has had such a tremendous impact. It’s unbelievable.”
Mankert also runs a scholarship programme offering young golfers the opportunity to work like a tour pro for a year. They receive unlimited coaching and mentoring from Mankert together with support from specialists such as a physiotherapist and a dietician.
He’s just awarded his sixth scholarship, selecting the winner from 387 applicants from across the country. One of his former protégées, Ryan Evans, is now a European Tour player, and another is a PGA professional, while all have improved their golf and grown personally and in confidence.
“When I was young lots of people helped me and so it’s quite important to give a bit back, it just feels the right thing to do,” said Mankert.
Caption: Anders Mankert (left) receives his award from Stuart Attfield on behalf of event sponsors Bridgestone.