Please give a brief breakdown of the role SADGA plays in golf in South Africa.
The South African Disabled Golf Association’s [SADGA] mandate is to encourage all South africans with a permanent physical or sensory disability to play the game of golf. The growth of the SADGA in the two-plus decades since its inception has been extraordinary, but there is always more work to be done!

The SADGA cultivates an environment of acceptance and upliftment, and we’ve been fortunate to create a space where people from all walks of life are brought together as much for their mutual love of golf as their disability. Our membership consists of golfers who just happen to have a disability of some sort.

Could you tell us a bit more about the First Swing Program (FSP) and how it
benefits youngsters?

It’s a five-tiered programme that strives to introduce physically disabled children or those with sensory disabilities to golf so they may enjoy the considerable physical and mental health benefits associated with the game.

Tiers 1 and 2 offer severely disabled children the chance to experience golf in a modified golf environment within their school halls using SNAG equipment.

Tier 3 is for those who are able to play at least nine holes either on a mashie course or golf course. Tier 4 FSP golfers are those individuals with an official SAGA handicap who participate in SADGA tournaments. Finally, Tier 5 is for those who attain a single-figure handicap and who thus have the opportunity to compete on the international stage.

No matter the tier a golfer achieves, the FSP is also a vehicle through which participating children learn the valuable life skills associated with the game, such as honesty, integrity and a good work ethic, to name but a few. These are of vital importance given that most of our FSP golfers are from impoverished backgrounds.

What have been some of your highlights and what are you most excited about regarding future projects and plans?
There are too many highlights to mention, but it’s wonderful to reflect on all the lives we’ve touched through the game, particularly among the FSP children.

A close second is the ever-evolving competitive offering afforded to our members. For the better part of 20 years our flagship event was the SA Disabled Open which in 2021 gave way to the five-event Open Series.

This year the Open Series has been replaced by the All Abilities Golf Tour, a 10-event Tour which traverses much of the country and provides our members with ample opportunity to earn World Ranking for Golfers With Disability (WR4GD) points while playing some of the finest golf courses in South Africa.

What more can be done to shine the spotlight on and grow disabled golf?
I believe the key is showcasing our golfers in a way that doesn’t make their disability the primary focus but rather their talent for the game. SuperSport has done a wonderful job in this regard through their coverage of the All Abilities Golf Tour.

Each event highlights a different player within SADGA’s membership. These pieces do a phenomenal job of illustrating the variety of disability and personality we have within SADGA and by extension the inclusive environment we cultivate.

I’d encourage everyone to watch future All Abilities Golf Tour inserts on SuperSport. The quality of golf on display is great and the quality of people filling out the fields even better!

The AAGT has been a significant step towards showcasing our golfers’ considerable talent locally and the hope in the near future is to select a South African team to go compete on the international stage and demonstrate their talent to the world.

What do you think golfers could learn from disabled golfers?
Perhaps the biggest lesson is resilience in the face of adversity. In golf, as in life, the ball won’t always bounce in your favour. Each time our golfers tee it up they demonstrate an admirable willingness to deal with the bad bounces of the ball and savour the good breaks whenever they arise.

Above all, golfers should take a leaf out of the book of their disabled counterparts and just keep swinging and enjoy every game they play!