England (South) Region
16 Mar 17
Keely Chiericato (right) with Daniel Gunnell.
Manston Golf Centre’s Keely Chiericato, has added a new dimension to her widely respected capabilities as a golf coach.
In just eight sessions, Chiericato has taught 16 year old Daniel Gunnell to play golf. So what? So Daniel’s been blind from birth.
What’s more, the East Kent PGA Professional is showing that golf has much to give people like Daniel, as she explains: “I’ve taught people who are deaf and learned some basic sign language, but I’ve always wanted to teach someone who is blind.
For the golf coach, it takes you into a whole new dimension of teaching the game and makes you think much harder about things you otherwise tend to take for granted.”
Besides getting her young protégé to learn how to hit a golf ball, and how to understand and develop his sense of feel for the short game, Chiericato’s patience is being rewarded in other completely unexpected ways.
“Daniel had tried other sports,” she explains, “but didn’t get the help and support that was obviously so needed and ended feeling rejected.
“At first when he came here, he was very shy and it was hard work to get a word out of him.”
All that changed, however, once Daniel became increasingly comfortable with Chiericato’s coaching.
“Now I’ve got him hitting the ball consistently, he’s feeling a great sense of achievement,” she added. “He’s become much easier to chat with and he’s really coming out of his shell.
“When he comes here for his lessons, he’s carrying his clubs and happily making his own way to the range without anyone helping him.
“It’s wonderful to watch him develop, not just as a golfer but as a real person. For any teacher, this is incredibly rewarding.”
Chiericato put some of Daniel’s shots on to social media and has been stunned at the impact it’s had.
Besides acquiring many more followers generally, Chiericato’s picked up a lot of amputee golfer followers. But for Daniel, things have gone a step further.
Lynx Golf’s salesman Ian Wilkinson saw one of Chiericato’s postings, spoke to the brand’s owners and the net result is that lucky Daniel now has a half set of brand new Lynx golf clubs and a bag to go with them.
In addition, Darren Plant, father of England amateur Alfie Plant, saw a video clip and so he gave Daniel all his son’s England Golf branded clothing.
Working with a SwingRite club that teaches Daniel his sense of rhythm and timing, plus alignment sticks and translating distances into yards when it comes to the short game, Chiericato’s confident that Daniel’s going to be out on the course in two to three months’ time.
“He’s learned how to sense where the club is in relation to the ball and to be patient,” she says.
“He’s making a full swing and consistently getting the ball airborne.”
Chiericato is not the only person giving Daniel support and confidence, however.
His mother is not only a swimming teacher but a keen golfer as well, as are her husband and Daniel’s sibling.
As a result he’s got the ideal support team when it comes to having a guide on the golf course or range, an essential extra element of the game for blind golfers.
As Chiericato says: “I’ve always harboured ambitions of playing professional golf full time.
“Now I’ve added a new one: to help Daniel not only play golf as well as he can and get whatever golf can give him as a young man who’s learning to manage the world around him, but also to see if one day I can help him compete in the England and Wales Blind Golf championships. As a golf teacher, that’s a genuinely aspirational goal.”
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