An international field will tee off at Roganstown this week when the Irish Blind Golf Open returns to the sporting calendar for the first time since 2000.
Backed by the Golfing Union of Ireland with sponsorship assistance from Vision Sports Ireland and Japanese philanthropist Dr Haruhisha Handa, the revived event has attracted many of the world’s leading blind golfers. Played over 36 holes on Thursday and Friday, competitors from Australia, Japan, South Africa, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Canada, Scotland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland will vie for the Irish Open championship with a Saturday scramble to follow. They include 2014 Australian Blind Golf Open champion Kris Adams, the 2013 British Blind Golf Open champion, Chris Evans, the 2012 Italian Blind Golf Open champion Mirco Ghiggeri and 2012 IBGA World Blind Golf champion Pieta le Roux.
Leading members of the Irish Blind Golf Society Wally Roode, Jimmy Murray, Adrian Downey and Joe Lonergan will also take part, as will its honorary secretary Paul O’Rahilly.
“It’s much more fun that sighted golf,” O’Rahilly said with a chuckle. “When I was sighted and I hit a shot off line I was inclined to beat myself up over it but there’s huge enjoyment to this.
“Blind golf is a two-person sport. The guide assists with setting up the golfer, making course management decisions, and watching and describing the shot played,” O’Rahilly explained.
“All the blind golfer has to do is hit the ball. It’s great when you get your timing right and you deliver the ball exactly where your guide has told you to put it and you get the feedback from your club, hugely enjoyable. We are delighted that with the support of the GUI and the R&A Working for Golf programme that we can now revive the Irish championship.”
“The International Blind Golf Association is the driving force for the 13 national associations representing 500 blind golfers worldwide. IBGA would like to see these numbers grow and is also involved in a bid to introduce disabled or paragolf into the Paralympics in 2020.”
There’s only one SNAG in attracting new players
The powers that be are constantly trying to get a handle on how to attract new players into the game and it seems not a month goes by without one governing body or another seeing another fall in participation levels and issuing a report, forming an advisory panel or simply throwing hands up in the air and screaming ‘why?’.
Well, as has been aired on these pages before, the answer may be beautifully simplistic.
SNAG stands for Starting New At Golf and the system, using equipment featuring oversized clubfaces, larger balls and fun targets, is being increasingly adopted by golf clubs and coaches in Ireland.
“With so many golf clubs and the likes of The Paul McGinley Golf Academy, The Darren Clarke Golf Foundation and The Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues using SNAG Golf it gives us great confidence that what we are doing is right for golf and helping to grow the game,” said Michael O’Keeffe, chief executive of SNAG Golf (Ireland).
Nor is it just golf clubs embracing SNAG, says O’Keeffe, who added: “Our Golf4Schools initiative that we introduced last year has far exceeded our expectations and reinforced to us that golf at national school level is achievable and would undoubtedly be a huge benefit in the current drive to ‘grow the game’.
Golf4Schools has been running for a year and there are now National School programmes in operation across the country in partnership with local golf clubs and PGA Professionals.
“The partnership helps us to create that all-important pathway to retention which begins in the school yard and ends up at local golf clubs where the pupils take part in fun SNAG activity programmes or become part of structured junior programmes under the watchful eye of the club’s PGA professional.
“On our own we will all survive, maybe, but working together we can all grow and prosper.
“Our experience shows us that there are great clubs and PGA pros out there working very hard to grow membership and we want to help them by adding a resource that has a proven record,” added O’Keeffe.
* For more information check out www.snaggolf.ie.
Cawley salutes ‘awesome’ efforts of Fota marshals
The warm glow of this year’s Irish Open continues to radiate across the golfing community on these shores and none more so than from the tournament’s chief marshal Ray Cawley, who wanted to make known his appreciation for the hard work his voluntary crew of more than 400 marshals put in at Fota Island Resort. Chief marshal Cawley told them in an e-mail: “I wish to thank each and every one of you for the sacrifice and commitment that you made in becoming a part of a spectacular performance of Marshals of the biggest ever attendance at an Irish Open Golf Championship in the Irish Republic.
“Your performance at Fota Island Resort was truly awesome over the five days; always happy; never wilting, and always willing to do more, and never will we forget your finale on the 18th fairway on Sunday, surrounding and serenading Irish Open winner, Mikko Ilonen, with one of the finest renderings of ‘De Banks’ ever heard! ”You are all very special people, and I hope you will be proud of your contribution.”
Kelly continues good form
St Margaret’s professional John Kelly carried the momentum of his four rounds at the Irish Open back onto the PGA of Ireland circuit last week when he won the Bunclody Golf Club Pro-Am.Kelly, 42, tied for 58th at Fota and continued his good form at the Co. Wexford venue, where he carded a three-under 69 featuring eight birdies and six bogeys to win by a shot from Brendan McGovern (Headfort), Ian Kerr (Carlow Golf Range), Niall Kearney (Royal Dublin) and Enda Maguire (Dundalk GC).
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