Ex England Rugby player, Mike Tindall and defending ISPS HANDA Wales Open champion, Thongchai Jaidee were on hand to witness blind and disabled golfers receive some first class tuition at the stunning Celtic Manor Resort on Wednesday.
A total of 7 golfers received short and long game coaching from PGA professional Craig Thomas, of the Golf Academy, 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 on the Twenty Ten driving range, Jordan Rosser, Simon Wilcock John Eakin, Richard Saunders, Dave Waterhouse, Chris Foster, and Keith Davies enjoyed a perfect day of golf that included playing in the official tournament Pro-Am in a round they will never forget.
Gloucester player-coach Mike Tindall commented, “What ISPS HANDA are trying to do is fantastic, not just the drive to get golf into the Paralympics but everything they are doing to get blind and disabled people get back into sport.”
Tindall who accompanied Scott Jamieson in the Pro-Am, tried his hand at a blindfolded shot and was full of admiration for blind and disabled golfers.
“It’s a completely alien feeling, so to still want to be out there playing sport is a big credit to individuals with disabilities, I take my hat off to them.”
“Through the ISPS HANDA PGA Academy Programme it’s great that the facility for blind and disabled golfers, particularly young golfers is there” said Tindall.
The aim of the clinic 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 Craig 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 golfers something they will never forget.
“For these golfers to be amongst the pros here at the ISPS HANDA Wales Open is an experience they will never forget. Many of our clinic attendees struggled to sleep last night with excitement and it’s great to be able show just how much work is being done in blind and disabled golf on a stage like this,” said Thomas.
One of the clinic’s participants was one-time Paralympic hopeful Chris Foster. Chris, who only has one leg, saw his dreams of a swimming gold medal dashed when he was injured ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games and now has his heart set on qualifying as a PGA Professional.
“I like team sports but I prefer the individual sports and the hard work required to do well. I am down to a handicap of nine and last year I told my coach that I want to turn pro and specialise in disabled coaching. I am working towards that goal,” said Chris.
“It is brilliant what ISPS HANDA is doing in promoting golf for blind and disabled people,” he said. “It is giving us expertise and providing us and others with the opportunity to get out there and play golf.”
The ISPS HANDA Wales Open tees off at 07:25 on Thursday with 2014 European Ryder Cup Captain, Paul McGinley set to hit the first ball as the quest to join the European team begins this week.
McGinley is at Celtic Manor to run the rule over the early contenders who can make a fast start to the qualification process that will identify nine automatic qualifiers – four from the European Points list and five from the World Points List, leaving McGinley to complete his team with three Captain’s picks.