Former England cricketers Darren Gough and Steve Harmison admitted they were bowled over by the skill and tenacity of three disabled golfers in a special golf shootout held ahead of this week’s ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship.
The duo competed alongside the disabled golfers in a three-hole challenge as part of the build-up to the £260,000 event, which gets underway at De Vere Mottram Hall, in Cheshire, on Thursday.
Led by its philanthropic chairman, Dr Haruhisa Handa, International Sports Promotion Society (ISPS) actively promotes disabled and blind golf, and as part of its sponsorship of the tournament last year the Society 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 during active service, against two other teams in the contest designed to highlight the good work of ISPS. It was Harmison, playing alongside defending champion Paul Wesselingh and Matt Mahoney, who emerged triumphant in the three-hole alternate challenge.
Harmison’s team finished on one under par, with Gough’s team sharing second place on one over par alongside the trio of Doncaster Rovers manager Paul Dickov, former Senior Tour Number One Peter Fowler and disabled golfer John Riordan.
Gough, who smashed his opening tee shot some 350 yards, was full of admiration for all three disabled players, particularly Swain.
Gough said: “They were all amazing, especially the guy with one arm. I was fascinated because we all had a go at trying to hit the ball with one arm – and I hit mine three yards!
“It’s amazing how he has still got the desire to play. He hit a drive 250 yards, which is unbelievable.”
Gough’s personal aim is to get his current handicap of 12 down to single figures, but his numerous work commitments – including his popular drive-time show on Talksport radio – have restricted his time on the course.
He said: “This is only my fifth round since November. I’m playing off 12, but it’s 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 regularly it’s really hard.
“With my natural hand-eye coordination, my driving and putting are both pretty good but with not playing enough, where I struggle is the chips from 30 yards in. They’re the ones I’m not so confident with.”
Harmison, who like Gough also plays off 12, said: “It’s such an inspiration to see people less fortunate come out and play with such passion and skill.”
Mahoney, Swain and Riordan had qualified for the challenge after topping a De Vere Blind and Disabled event held at De Vere Mottram Hall on Monday.