Anders Mankert leading the way for blind golfers

Anders Mankert leading the way for blind golfers


‘First visualise the shot you want to hit,’ is not a line that gets much traction when you are teaching golf to a blind person.

Language, according to award-winning coach, Anders Mankert of the Leicester Golf Centre, is the hardest thing to overcome when teaching the visually impaired.

“The number of times we say, ‘look at that shot’ when giving lessons to sighted golfers is useless,” said Mankert. And he should know having celebrated 25 years in 2021 of teaching blind and visually impaired golfers.

Since he first approached a group of visually impaired people on the driving range at Kilworth Springs golf club in South Leicestershire as an assistant professional asking if he could help, Mankert has produced numerous winners at national and international level.

He has coached players who have gone on to win World Championships, Blind British Open, Australian Open and other titles. Most recently, he was working with players from the ‘Rest of the World’ team to take on America in the blind golfers’ Ryder Cup, held at TPC Sawgrass.

“You have to be hands on, literally,” Mankert continued. “Grab them to manoeuvre them into the correct position. At first I was too stand-offish before I learned that blind golfers have a wicked sense of humour and the pleasure they get out of playing is incredible.”

One of Mankert’s pupils, Billy McAllister, who went totally blind overnight because of diabetes and he admits golf literally saved his life. His marriage had ended, he was unemployed and he had lost his home.

“I found out where he was and called him,” recalls Mankert. “I suggested that he came and see me and have a go. He finished as the British number one in his sight category. To be able to play just a small part in something that changed a person’s life and helped him turn it round was fantastic.”

Mankert’s latest pupil is a nine-year-old boy who was born totally blind. He won’t be charging him, just as he hasn’t charged any of his blind and visually impaired pupils because he thinks getting them to be able to play and enjoy golf is its own reward.

Andy Gilford, secretary for England and Wales Blind Golf (EWBG), said: “I wish we could find the likes of Anders all round the country because golf has saved a number of lives not just Billy McAllister’s.”

Gilford himself has suffered a severe optic nerve disorder since birth and has only five per cent vision. He continued: “I have always struggled with coming to terms with my eyesight condition including the constant mental battles,and started to receive counselling from the age of 14 to help me accept the condition. I was always the last pick at school in sports, due to my sight condition leading to me struggling with most sports.”

“When I was 14 I started going to the local golf club at Shaw Hill, Chorley in Lancashire and carried my friend, Robert Moss’s bag while he played and it helped me get away from that. And then I had a go myself. My parents bought me some lessons and Robert would line me up to hit the ball.”

While Moss went on to become a PGA Professional, rules committee man and now regional manager at Woodbury Park Golf Club in Exeter, Gilford was busy running his own small company as a business development consultant.

In 1998, Gilford heard Peter Alliss mention EWBG on television whilst commentating at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale and he signed up. In his first year he won the Blind British Open and represented his country.

Gilford has played in the last three consecutive Vision Cup matches for the Rest of the World team and has just been picked for this year’s contest at Sawgrass.

He is coached at his club, Ham Manor in West Sussex, by PGA Professional Jon Nicholas, while his wife, Melanie, who he met at an EWBG event, acts as his guide at big tournaments.

Gilford now wants others to take part in the life-changing pleasure that he and other EWBG members have enjoyed.

He added: “There is a fantastic camaraderie amongst blind golfers because we all know the dark days of depression that being blind can bring.

“I just want to help get more people to be able to play and that means getting more people to guide them and more PGA pros to teach them. And I want that to be a reality not just a dream.”

CLICK HERE to find out more about England and Wales Blind Golf.


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