In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, EDGA Chris Biggins talks about his route into golf for the disabled, dividing his time between golf and alpine skiing, and opportunity in the sport.
I've always wanted to be a successful athlete, and golf has given me the ability to do that. I was someone who loved all sports growing up, but I really gravitated towards golf as I got older because it was the sport that my disability limited me the least in. I was born with cerebral palsy, which mostly affects my legs and lower back. My muscles are very tight because of it, so it has always been imperative that I have an athletic lifestyle to prevent my disability from having detrimental effects on my abilities.
It helps that I’ve always been active. When I’m playing golf, the biggest thing CP does affect is my balance and ability to use my lower body to create clubhead speed, but even though I have always been a shorter hitter, I have taken pride in my short game ability to make up for my lack of distance.
As a kid I always wanted to be a professional athlete, but as I got older that dream did start to become unrealistic. At that time I still wanted to have a career in sports so after success in grade school, I decided to play golf in college and pursue a career as a PGA teaching professional. I have been a proud teacher since 2014, and my career path has given me the opportunity to live an active lifestyle, and pursue my competitive aspirations in golf while also teaching.
It’s amazing to look back now, because in 2015 I didn't even know there was an opportunity to play in disabled golf. Now, I am in St. Andrews competing on a grand stage with the ability to show thousands of disabled golfers that there is opportunity to play. It’s incredible, and each year I meet more disabled golfers that have pursued the game due to opportunities to compete that now exist and are becoming known around the world.
I remember playing in my first disabled golf event in 2016, at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon, USA. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, and I was just excited for the opportunity to compete. But I was blown away by the talent of the golfers I met there and instantly decided I wanted to compete alongside those incredible athletes. After competing in able bodied golf my entire life, I was thrilled to find adaptive golf and compete against individuals coping with physical disadvantages like myself.
I won the US Disabled Open Golf Championship in 2019, which was a pivotal point in my competitive golf career, and opened the door for some incredible opportunities. I won that event in a play-off against my great friend and rival Chad Pfeifer, who I had been chasing since my first event in 2016. That victory also earned me an invitation to the EDGA Scottish Open in 2019. Playing in that event was a dream come true and it changed my life. Now I am back here in Scotland competing again and loving every second of it.
The progression has been fantastic in the sport and opportunities like these mean the world to us. Having these events to play for gives us incentive to practice and train. It gives us a serious goal to work towards. For myself and many of my fellow competitors, it has changed our lives. It gives us a chance to show the world what we can do. It gives us a platform to spread our message about perseverance and working through failures to achieve success. And we couldn’t have done it without organisations like EDGA, who have done incredible things to grow the game worldwide. The USAGA and USDGA in the United States are working hard as well to open doors for more disabled golfers like they did for me in 2016. It seems like we have great momentum and I am excited to see the continued growth. **
But golf isn’t the only passion I have, and I have competed in alpine skiing since 2014, right after I graduated college.** My disability affects my legs, and skiing is a leg sport, so it has helped me immensely to improve my physical condition. I golf eight months out of the year, and then I ski the remaining four. While the sports are very different, the training for skiing has made me much stronger and has translated into a lot more distance in my golf game. I love to compete, and with skiing and golf I have the opportunity to compete year-round.
Both sports have both done a lot for me. When I am walking down the street, it is clearly visible that something is wrong and that I am different. I am not winning any walking contests. But, when I am golfing, I can hit shots as good if not better than most people. My talents outshine my deficiencies and I am no longer seen for my disability, but more for my ability. In skiing, the saying is more literal. On the slopes, one cannot tell that I am disabled. I ski well enough to look able bodied and my time on the mountain is a break from being seen as a disabled person.
It can be difficult balancing work and golf and skiing because I am never able to commit all of the time I would like to each activity, but I do the best I can. Succeeding at each activity gives me a great sense of pride in what I do, so I will continue to work at all. My boss, Eric Eshleman, understands how important each activity is to me, and is always willing to give me time off to compete as long as I work hard when I can. Also, I really feel that competing in skiing and golf and working with top coaches in different sports has helped me grow as a teacher. Each activity compliments the other.
And now, my goal is to be World Number One. I’ve been impressed by Brendan Lawlor since I met him at the EDGA Scottish Open in 2019, and I’m not surprised he is at the top just now – especially after the last two weeks. But I want to get there too, so I will continue to train and work towards that goal as long as I can. Watch out Brendan!