The new star in the world of disabled golf is a 14 year-old from Rotherham called Lewis Eccles. Remember his name.
Representing Special Olympics GB the young Yorkshireman, who despite his autism, ADHD and dyspraxia has become a passionate and regular golfer, smashed his personal best in shooting an astonishing gross 78 off a 12-handicap on the challenging Ballesteros Masters Course at The Shire London, to walk away with the 3rd annual UK Disabled Open, staged by golf’s most inclusive charity The Golf Trust on Monday 27th July 2015.
His fellow competitors on the day have successfully overcome a huge variety of challenges in life to become golfers, including amputation, sensory disabilities, MS, Parkinson’s, strokes, autism, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome and learning difficulties.
With supporters ranging from British Airways and England Golf to Colleen Ramsey Cakes, and with dozens of volunteers helping the 70 competitors with everything other than actually hitting the ball, this year’s UK Disabled Open was not only the largest pan-disability golf event of the year, but also the most extravagantly well-attended.
The 200-strong gathering started the day by watching a video message from Justin Rose, 2013 U.S Open Champion and current world #5 golfer. Specially-recorded to inspire competitors in this year’s event, the message from Rose – who is an Ambassador for both British Airways and England Golf – added a special touch of Tour golf glamour to what was already an exciting atmosphere.
Out on Seve’s golf course the BA theme continued, with air hostesses greeting golfers on the first tee, before The Shire London’s own David Rose did his best Ivor Robson impression while announcing the starters.
And as well as supplying an amazing 70 on-course volunteers, the global airline also put up two fabulous Nearest The Pin prizes that for once were really worth winning – Club World flights to anywhere in Europe.
With Shire London members adding their support across the golf course, Eccles quickly built an unassailable lead, and afterwards was presented the Craig Waugh Trophy in the clubhouse by Graeme Robertson from the Disabled Golf Association and Mark Pickard from British Airways.
In winning this year’s main event Eccles completed a hat-trick, as the delighted young golfer won the Junior Prize in this event in 2013 and 2014. In addition to the trophy, he also won a 36-hole golf break in Wales, a golf shirt signed by Rose and free entry for his team into August’s The Golf Trust charity golf day.
Amie Bullock, an Egham golfer who has MS and represents the Disabled Golf Association, picked up the Ladies’ trophy, and 18-year old Bobby David from Ascot, a golfer with autism representing Special Olympics GB won the Junior Prize as the next-nearest junior golfer after Lewis Eccles.
The BA Club World tickets for Nearest The Pin were won by Jake Conroy, a 19 year-old cerebral palsy golfer from Hemel Hempstead representing the Disabled Golf Association and Welshman Jason Heathfield, a partially-sighted ex-serviceman representing the Battle Back sports initiative from the M.O.D.
“What an honour it was to host this event at The Shire London for the third year” said event organiser Cae Menai-Davis, co-founder of The Golf Trust. “The support from British Airways, England Golf and many others was phenomenal, and the event showed the true meaning of the sport. Lewis played great golf by any standards.
“The UK Disabled Open 2015 inspired us all to keep pushing The Golf Trust’s message that we need more inclusivity across the sport” he said.
Mark Pickard at British Airways said: “My colleagues and I at BA all look forward to this inspiring annual event, and we are honoured to supporting and volunteering at the UK Disabled Open”.
The winner’s proud father, Peter Eccles, said: “Lewis had a fantastic day both on and off the Seve course at The Shire London, which was in amazing condition. Our thanks go to the organisers, who have created a truly inspiring event”.
The Disabled Golf Association’s Graeme Robertson said: “It’s amazing to have so many players of different abilities/disabilities all playing together at a top golf course. This year’s event showed how the human mind has the power to overcome adversity, and it should encourage other disabled people to start playing golf”.
England Deaf Golf chairman Ben Stephens said: “There are very few golf events which incorporate all disabilities playing together in one event which makes the UK Disabled Open such a valuable event. I would definitely encourage all deaf golfers to take part in future events to support The Golf Trust”.
Lewis Eccles can be found on Twitter at @lewisgolf2000.