Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp sank the winning putt but it was three disabled golfers who were the inspiration at the launch of the 2012 ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship at De Vere Slaley Hall, in Northumberland, England.
The trio of Paul Swain, Jonathan Jones and Andy Gardiner teamed up with Redknapp, Freddie Flintoff and Sophie Horn, plus European Senior Tour stars Barry Lane, Mark James and Peter Fowler in the ISPS Handa Three Hole Challenge.
They had topped a De Vere competition for blind and disabled golfers and earned the chance to contest the 14th, 17th and 18th holes with Redknapp, Lane and Gardiner winning the alternate hole format.
Bicester-based Gardiner lost a leg in an accident and has only been playing golf seriously for a year. Playing off a handicap of 6.7, he hit the shot of the mini-tournament with a six iron to four feet on the par three 17th for an easy birdie for Lane.
Swain from Leicester lost his arm 12 months ago while serving in Afghanistan in the 9th/12th Royal Lancers but showed few ill effects with an impressive approach on the last.
The pros Lane, Fowler and James all tried to emulate Swain by striking a shot with one arm – each failed to match his effort, taking huge divots off the 17th and moving the ball less than 30 feet each.
Former Ryder Cup Captain James said: “I didn’t really have the strength, I don’t know how Paul manages to generate the club head speed, it was very impressive.”
Jones, aged 23, suffers with a muscle-wasting condition called arthrogryposis which has left him with little muscle in his arms.
However the Whitley Bay Golf Club player has not let that stand in his way and plays off three.
After holing the decisive putt Redknapp was glowing in his praise in the way the three disabled golfers had overcome their disabilities.
“It is absolutely fantastic to see how well they play and how they have not let their disability stand in their way,” said Redknapp, who didn’t play golf until he was 50 but admitted he would play every day if he could.
“The three pros all tried hitting a shot with one arm and it just showed how difficult it is.”
ISPS Handa has joined forces with the PGA to launch a special academy programme designed to train PGA professionals to coach blind and disabled golfers.
|T5||SMITH, Peter A||SCO||18||-1|