FIRST LOOK: Golfers with disabilities set to shine at inaugural G4D Open
Leading golfers with disabilities from across the globe are keen to shine at the inaugural G4D Open next week. Amongst them will be Kris Aves and Ellie Perks, both have shown great determination in their lives to thrive in the sport and are relishing the chance to play at Woburn from 10-12 May, 2023.
According to the R&A: "The championship, held in partnership between The R&A and the DP World Tour and supported by EDGA (formerly the European Disabled Golf Association), will be one of the most inclusive ever staged, featuring nine sports classes across multiple impairment groups.
Aves from North London is a 41-year-old former Met Police officer who was injured in the terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge in March 2017. Struck by the attacker’s car, he received severe spinal injuries that left him paralysed from the waist down.
A keen golfer before the attack, Aves spent a week in an induced coma and went on to spend ten months at Stoke Mandeville Hospital after three weeks at King’s College Hospital for surgery. His legs and spine suffered compound fractures which needed corrective surgeries.
“Going through my rehab in hospital, there were three things I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to do properly again,” he says. “One was that I didn’t think I’d ever play golf again.”
Through a mutual contact, he met Cai Menai-Davis of The Shire London who runs a charity called The Golf Trust, which focuses on getting individuals with disabilities and older people out on the golf course. Aves has been able to play with the aid of a ParaGolfer – a special mobility device that lifts people from a sitting to a standing position.
“I got inside and was able to make a swing,” he said. “That first hit brought tears to my eyes. Even though I knew I’d never get back to the standard I had been, I was able to play again.”
Kris realised he needed to get his own ParaGolfer, costing upwards of £20,000.
“I was extremely lucky,” he added. “At a pub I drink in called The Railway Tavern in Barnet, the landlord Kieran Guthrie is a big golfer and he put on a golf day for me, they did a raffle, an auction, and they raised £17,000 in one day and I was able to buy a ParaGolfer. It was phenomenal that so many people came out to raise money for me.”
Now Aves is looking forward to appearing in The G4D Open and said, “I was over the moon to get a place. I’m looking forward to meeting people from across Europe and around the world and seeing how well I perform against the seated golfers. But, really, I’m looking forward to simply taking part.”
Perks, from Hagley in the West Midlands, has been playing golf since she was seven-years-old. Now aged 18, she is an accomplished golfer with a handicap of 11 and plays an active role in encouraging other young people with disabilities to start playing.
“I can’t recommend golf highly enough for anyone, whether they have a disability or not,” she said. “To be able to get out, to play, to meet new people. It’s a special sport.”
Perks was introduced to a group called Golf for Disabled Children by the Hagley head pro Gareth Snelgrove, who has been Ellie’s coach since she began playing, and she now does volunteer coaching for the organisation. In addition, Perks has also been working with Dwarf Sports, running a golfing taster session.
“I wanted to be able to get other people with dwarfism involved as there are not many people who have dwarfism and play golf,” she added. “I didn’t think I’d have many people turn up to the session, but in the end, I had about 30. It was quite exciting to see that people were coming to give golf a try, and so I’ve been doing them every month since then.”
Perks, who has also been active in promoting EDGA and participated in a number of events including the Rose Series, has rightly been recognised for her endeavours. In 2019, when she was just 14, she became the first girl to be presented with England Golf’s Hero’s Handshake Award, which celebrates what young people are achieving in golf outside of just competition.
Ahead of The G4D Open, she said, “I’m very much looking forward to it. It is a new championship and hopefully the first of many. I’m excited to get to see old friends and meet new people and to just have fun – that it is the most important thing. Hopefully I will be able to walk away from the championship knowing that I have enjoyed myself no matter what the result is.”
A field of 80 male and female players will assemble to compete over the Duchess Course at Woburn, representing 19 countries. Fourteen of the top-20 players from the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD) are in the field, which can be viewed on The R&A website.
Spectators are welcome to attend next week’s G4D Open free of charge and enjoy watching the championship.