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G4D Tour: Daphne van Houten and Marcella Neggers proud to fly flag for the Netherlands and inspire women

G4D Tour: Daphne van Houten and Marcella Neggers proud to fly flag for the Netherlands and inspire women

The G4D (Golf for the Disabled) Tour is demonstrating its commitment to championing inclusivity this season in several ways, including enabling two female players to participate at each event.

Daphne van Houten-1405679648
Daphne van Houten, who was diagnosed with scoliosis as a child, is the top ranked female player in the world

After the inaugural Net tournament in Ras Al Khaimah last month, the G4D Tour breaks new ground again with its first visit to Africa next week to coincide with the staging of the Magical Kenya Open on the DP World Tour.

With the 2023/24 schedule ensuring golfers across a wider spectrum of disabilities can compete, new disabilities are represented as was seen with England's Michelle Lau becoming the first player with autism to feature.

When Muthaiga Golf Club plays host to the third event of the campaign, Dutch pair Daphne van Houten and Marcella Neggers will take their place in a field that features eight of the top nine players in the world on the Gross rankings.

While Van Houten has past experience on the G4D Tour having played on three occasions in its inaugural season in 2022, compatriot Neggers is set for her debut.

Ahead of the historic first event on African soil, we caught up with both Van Houten and Neggers to learn more about their journey in the game, excitement at teeing it up and pride at promoting the game of golf on a global platform.

Daphne van Houten

  • Age: 25
  • Gross World Ranking (at time of entry): 25, top-ranked female player
Daphne Van Houten-1331607970

When and how did you first get into golf?

When I was about six years old; my parents [Henk and Monique] started playing and took me along with them each time, and I loved it right from the start! Being as little as I was, the golf course was very big, so chipping had my interest then as now; I always thought it was the most fun part of golf with all the variations of the shot. I began my golf at Golfpark Almkreek and now I play at my home course of Golfclub De Haenen.

Can you explain your journey with your disability?

At the age of 12 a medical screening suggested my back/spine wasn't growing straight and soon after it was confirmed by X-rays that I had a condition called Scoliosis. 

Only a year later, the curvature got twice as bad, therapy was needed, and an operation to keep my spine straight was on the horizon. As I was so young, I was enrolled in the Schroth Method in Germany for five weeks (Katharina Schroth was a famed physiotherapist who also had Scoliosis). I started this course with a curvature of 53 degrees in my spine and came out with a curvature of 34 degrees. 

At the age of 17 I had a seven-hour operation where they put pins and screws in my back to keep my Scoliosis from getting worse. The doctors told me I couldn’t play golf for a year, but after a month I was already doing some short game and six months later I was back playing competitions. Now at the age of 25 I am very glad I had the operation because there is a strong chance I would not have been able to play golf anymore, because the curvature had got big and the pain was too much. I had a challenging year with my health last year so I am now really excited to get back on the G4D Tour and give it my best try. 

What is the most challenging element of playing with your disability?

Because I can’t turn my hips separately from my shoulders/upper body, I can’t get a lot of swing speed and I lose some distance compared with others. So, you have to find different ways to generate more speed, or be better at other elements in golf like the short game. My short game and putting are quite good as I do need them; I have put in a lot of practise over the years (from when I was six and just starting!).

Besides that, there is still a lot of pain you need to deal with. Most of the time we say, ‘It could be worse, there are people in the world who have it worse’. It makes you more grateful for the things you have. The resilience/work ethic is from my Mum's side of the family!

How proud are you as a woman to play your part in showcasing golf as a sport for everyone?

I am very proud, but mostly happy that EDGA and the DP World Tour are giving me (us) a platform to do so. It has always been a goal for me to inspire others to pick up the great game of golf, no matter what your (dis)ability is. I feel honoured to showcase the game of golf to others. 

Who was your hero (sporting or otherwise) growing up and why?

Anne (Ann) van Dam has always been my hero in golf [van Dam is a Dutch LPGA and LET player, with five LET victories]. A very strong and solid golfer. She is a few years older than me and has always been someone to look up to, and it helped me to make a vision of where I wanted and needed to be a few years later. 

In life in general my Dad has always been my hero, the way he carries life, loves his children and wife and always takes care of them. When I was younger my Dad drove me around to every single tournament I wanted to go to and always kept an open mind about me playing golf. He always said, keep playing golf if you enjoy it and if you don't want to play golf anymore than do whatever else your heart wants!

Daphne van Outen Marcella Neggers
Van Houten (centre, sitting down) has represented the Netherlands for whom Neggers (standing) is a National Coach

Marcella Neggers

  • Age: 49
  • Gross World Ranking (at time of entry): 90, fourth-best ranked female player
Marcella Neggers

When and how did you first get into golf?

I loved playing field hockey as a youngster but when aged 11 a severe pain in my right wrist was not going away and would eventually be diagnosed as Rheumatoid arthritis. My Dad [Timo] and Mum [Harriet] both played golf and thought that the similarities of hitting a ball with a stick could be good for me; they were right, and I fell in love from there. It was so good to have a new sport as I really missed hockey. I started at Tongelreep Golf and Countryclub and today I play my golf at Eindhovensche Golf.

Can you explain your journey with your disability?

Rheumatoid arthritis for me started with the pain in my wrist, but the impact of living with a disease that eventually would progress to both my elbows and my shoulders was very difficult at such a young age. School was affected with doctors’ appointments, multiple surgeries and the pain to deal with. Hockey and my dream of sports college were no longer possible.

But I soon became committed to being the best golfer I could be. I wanted to be the best player in Holland! From 15 I realised I was doing well. I won the Dutch National Championship at girls’ level when I was 17, earned Dutch golfer of the year in 1995 and 1996, and gained a conditional card at the qualifying school for the Ladies European Tour.

Playing so much golf took its toll with my condition, I really struggled to play a run of rounds over several days – I still loved playing but turned to coaching. I was later so proud to become in 2017 the National Coach for the Dutch team for G4D (golf for the disabled). This really has been a joy for me and so fulfilling. I love helping my players to reach their potential. It is fantastic to work with them, including some great young ones coming through. 

What is the most challenging element of playing with your disability?

I enjoy getting really focused, still want to compete and use my skills, but it is the wear and tear of playing a lot of holes on my shoulder, arms, wrists and hands. The spirit is very willing but it is physically difficult to play several rounds. It will be a test to do this in Kenya but one which I am really looking forward to, and will do my absolute best to play well.

What excites you most about playing on the G4D Tour for the first time?

It’s absolutely a bonus for me, it feels like a once in a lifetime thing. I love the game. I dreamt of playing regularly on the LET when I was younger. Becoming a coach has been incredibly satisfying, but I asked my Federation if I could play again and so after getting myself on the World Ranking I saw this chance. Such a bonus at this time of my career to really go for it at such a high level of competitive golf.

They will all be better golfers than me teeing it up in Kenya and I know they are hitting so many balls in practice, but I will love the whole experience and will work hard for a really good tournament; rest assured I’ll be giving 100% concentration on every shot.

How proud are you as a woman to play your part in showcasing golf as a sport for everyone?

It feels so special to be representing women golfers in this great event on the G4D Tour, so we can highlight that golf is a fantastic sport for anyone with a disability, and to attract more girls and women to try will be just fabulous. It is also a real privilege to fly the flag for The Netherlands with Daphne [fellow player Daphne van Houten]: two ‘Dutchees’ who can get everyone cheering back home. I’m so excited for Daphne after she has been injured, she is such a wonderful player and will be for many years. I’ll be proud to be with Daphne on the course.

Who was your hero (sporting or otherwise) growing up and why?

There is a big picture of Seve Ballesteros in my teaching bay at my club. Seve was a big hero of mine growing up, a brilliant golfer who drew people in to watch and take up our sport by the way he played; incredible. A second picture I have is of Tiger Woods: two players who so many of us look towards for inspiration on the course. Maybe we can’t match them but we can all enjoy trying!

The 2023/24 G4D Tour schedule

Tournament DateLocationField sizeFormatWinner
All Abilities Australian Championship30th Nov – 2nd Dec, 2023The Australian Golf Club, Sydney, Australia12GrossLachlan Wood
G4D Tour @ Ras Al-Khaimah Championship22nd – 23rd Jan, 2024Al Hamra GC, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE10NetRobin Rambo Singh
G4D Tour @ Magical Kenya Open19th – 20th Feb, 2024Muthaiga GC, Nairobi, Kenya10Gross 
G4D Open15th – 17th May, 2024Woburn Golf Club, Milton Keynes, England80Gross, with multiple Sport Classes 
G4D Tour @ Betfred British Masters hosted by Sir Nick Faldo26th – 27th Aug, 2024The Belfry, Sutton Coldfield, EnglandTBCTBC 
G4D Tour @ BMW PGA Championship16th – 17th Sep, 2024Wentworth Club, Virginia Water, Surrey, England10Gross 
G4D Tour @ Andalucía Masters14th – 15th Oct, 2024Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, San Roque, Andalucia, Spain10Net  
G4D Tour Series Finale @ DP World Tour Championship15th – 16th Nov, 2024Jumeirah Golf Estates, Earth Course, Dubai, UAE8Invitational - Gross 

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