ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship
7 June - 10 June
Blind golfers tee up at Slaley Hall
While golf stars like Sam Torrance and Mark James were in action in the opening round of the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship, several blind Geordies were also getting their first taste of golf tuition at the Northumberland resort.
The party of ten from Henshaws Society for Blind People travelled to De Vere Slaley Hall to receive instruction from a team of PGA professionals specially trained to teach blind and disabled golfers.
Among those getting to grips with the sport was David Newstead, aged 40, from Lanchester who came under the watchful eye of PGA pro Andrew Weston from De Vere Wychwood Park.
Newstead, who has Usher’s Syndrome which causes hearing and sight loss, revelled in the experience and has his appetite whetted to play more.
“I have a little bit of knowledge but not enough so to come here and receive expert tuition was brilliant,” he said.
“Even though I can’t see the ball, following the tuition it felt as if I was hitting the ball properly. I go on the driving range every now and then but this might well inspire me to get out on the course.”
Weston was full of praise for the blind golfers especially Newstead.
“The progression was very fast, I was surprised how well he was hitting it,” he said.
“He has the basics of a good swing and he seemed to really enjoy it. He had a little bit of history of golf and the fundamentals of the swing were there so I was just working on straightening him up a bit and making him enjoy it.
“I actually had a great buzz from coaching David and the others, it is a nice change to teaching normal sighted golfers. I like to be hands on with my teaching so really enjoyed the experience.”
The PGA pros are part of the ISPS Handa PGA Academy Programme which equips coaches to work specifically with blind and disabled golfers.
Philippa Taylor, a team leader for Henshaws which celebrates its 175th anniversary in two weeks, backed the coaching clinic and described it as a hugely positive experience.
“When many of the blind people first come to me they’ve got no confidence, no IT skills no nothing, so we work to build up their skills for everyday life,” she said.
“Something like this, where they can get support and are going to be given proper golf tuition, is great for them.
“It is the first time we’ve done this and it was hard to pick who to come along and who to leave behind because everyone was excited at the prospect and wanted to give it a go.”