Gough and Harmison salute disabled golfers


Blind Challengeresize

Former England quickies Darren Gough and Steve Harmison admitted they were bowled over by the skill and tenacity of three disabled golfers in a special golfing shootout at De Vere Mottram Hall, Cheshire.

The pair were playing in a three-hole challenge as part of the build up to the £260,000 ISPS HANDA PGA Seniors Championship which gets underway this Thursday (June 6).

ISPS actively promotes disabled and blind golf and as part of its sponsorship of the European Senior Tour event last year launched an academy programme to equip PGA Professionals with the skills to coach disabled golfers.

Gough teamed up with ex-Ryder Cup captain Mark James and former soldier Paul Swain, who lost an arm in the service of his country, and they took on two other teams in the contest designed to highlight the good work of ISPS.

But it was fellow Ashes hero Harmison, pictured above left, who emerged triumphant in the three-hole alternate challenge, playing alongside reigning PGA Seniors champion Paul Wesselingh (pictured right) and Matt Mahoney (centre).

The trio were one under for holes six, seven and 18 at Mottram Hall with Gough’s team one over as was the trio of new Doncaster Rovers manager Paul Dickov, former senior tour no.1 Peter Fowler and disabled golfer John Riordan.

Gough, who smashed his opening tee shot 350 yards on the par 4 sixth, was full of admiration for all three disabled players, especially Swain with all the celebrities having a go at trying to hit the ball with one arm – with varying degrees of success.

“They were all amazing especially the guy with one arm. I was fascinated because we all had a go at it and I hit mine three yards,” said Gough.

“It is amazing how he has still got the desire to hit it and play. He hit a drive 250 yards which was unbelievable.”

0406Swain.jpgThe winner, Mahoney had qualified with Swain, pictured above, and Riordan after topping a Devere Blind and Disabled Tournament at Mottram Hall yesterday.

And for the Newcastle-based Mahoney, who plays off 22 at Whickham Golf Club, the experience illustrated the broad appeal of golf – for all ages and abilities.

“It was a fantastic experience, it’s not every day you get to play on such a course in such great condition, and then with last year’s winner and an England cricketer, so it was a great experience.

“Golf is truly unique in that sense, I can’t think of any other sport where you can compete against someone with one arm, a seasoned professional golfer and you’re all playing evenly.

“Events like this that highlight the sport, help break down the sport and show it is not exclusive and hopefully it can become inclusive.

“It is definitely worth getting some coaching, especially for a disabled golfer, to help maximise the potential they have got.”

Harmsion added: “It is brilliant whenever you see people less fortunate come out and play with passion and skill, to see them play so well is an inspiration.”

Gough meanwhile is desperate to get his 12 handicap down to single figures. However work commitments, including his popular drive-time show on Talksport radio, have restricted his time on the course.

“This is only my fifth round since November, I’m off 12 (11.7) so it is not easy sticking to that because with my job I have to work every afternoon so I don’t really get chance to play.

“I’m trying to play a bit more and get into single figures but when you don’t play it’s really hard.

“The driving, my natural hand eye coordination and putting is good but where I struggle with not playing is the chips from 30 yards. They are the ones I’m not so confident with.”

Gough will be able to see how the pros do it when the action gets underway on Thursday while a family fun day on Saturday is set to be added attraction for spectators enjoying one of the biggest events on the European Senior Tour.

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