DISABLED BRITISH OPEN HEADS TO SUSSEX
Last year’s inaugural televised event at Old Thorns, in Hampshire – the largest and most inclusive event in the country for disabled golfers – proved enormously popular with all available places taken within weeks of the launch.
The ground-breaking event was one of 15 projects delivered in the south-east last year through the Accentuate programme, set up as part of region’s drive to create a cultural shift in the way disabled people are perceived by celebrating excellence and showcasing talent, in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
This year 72 golfers with varying disabilities and handicaps ranging from 36 to scratch will compete in the event over the 7,138-yard, Robert E Cupp-designed East course, which has hosted two European Opens and seen the likes of major winners Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Price and Ian Woosnam walk its fairways.
Last year, 52-year-old, three-handicapper Duncan Hamilton-Martin, from Esher, in Surrey, was the winner of a tight contest broadcast on Sky Sports. And Andy Barwell, from Hampshire-based organiser the Azalea Group, believes this year’s event will be equally well contested.
He said: “Golfers came from all over the UK and beyond to compete which made it a hugely competitive event. The quality of some of the play was quite staggering and the reaction to the television coverage on Sky Sports was huge.
“It’s also a great opportunity for both able-bodied and disabled people to try golf for the first time and receive free coaching from qualified Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) pros.”
The Disabled British Open golf championship was supported by the Accentuate programme, which aims to use the inspiration provided by the International Paralympic Movement and the unique heritage of the south-east as the birthplace of disability sport to change the lives of disabled people.
Accentuate is funded by SEEDA and Legacy Trust UK which is an independent charity set up to create a cultural and sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Esther Appleyard, Accentuate’s joint programme director, said: “The DBO is a fantastic new way of approaching disabled golf while celebrating the talents of our disabled sports people through such a professionally run event.
“We are delighted to be able to continue our support for the DBO and we look forward to developing it further into a sustainable event for the future.”
Derek Howe, general manager of East Sussex National GC, added: “We are honoured to host the second DBO and look forward to welcoming all the competitors and supporters.
“It’s the most inclusive pan-disability event in the country and deserves to be played at a venue which can offer a championship golf course and a first-class hotel. We are delighted that the organisers recognised the quality of our facilities and we will work together to ensure the event is a thoroughly memorable time for all concerned.”
Included in that group will be a massive team of volunteers. Last year, after the call went out the call went out from the organisers for volunteers to act as marshals, ball-spotters, buggy drivers and caddies, the roles were filled within weeks.
Barwell added: “Many of those who volunteered at last year’s DBO in Hampshire, have already intimated they would like to come back to East Sussex National and help out again.
“A lot of people recognised how the event contributes hugely to the progress of disability golf and are incredibly keen to help. This year’s DBO is likely to be a slightly larger event and we will need even more volunteers to help in crucial roles.”
A free, four-day, spectator safety level two NVQ course – a qualification in crowd marshalling and stewarding – is on offer to volunteers, courtesy of Telford College of Arts and Technology.
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