The Cairns Cup winners were crowned after a week-long festival of disability golf, where the USA Team proved too strong for the Europeans resulting in a 3 – 21 loss in the first-ever event of its kind.

After numerous postponements, the unique tournament finally got underway in early May 2022, culminating in The Cairns Cup winners – Team USA – being presented with the Trophy. 

The event consisted of two teams of golfers with varying disabilities from Europe and the USA, competing over three days in a ‘Ryder Cup Style’ format.

Tracey Ramin – USA Captain – talking about the newly formed tournament, was ecstatic about their win. He said “We came here with one aim – to win. Of course, we are also here to promote disability golf but ultimately, we wanted to both exceed our own expectation but also celebrate all that is good in disability golf”. 

He went on to say This event will not only raise the profile of all the impaired golfers around the world but also act as a touch paper for the next generation of adaptive golfers everywhere!”

Kevin Booth – European Team Captain saidObviously, we are hugely disappointed with the final score and while, on paper, the event looks like a mismatch, the golf played was far from one sided with both teams playing some outstanding golf. We may have taken a pasting on day one, but all of the day two matches went to the 18th hole, so we could easily have gone into the Singles matches all square. However, it does not matter now. The real winners are the next generation of impaired golfers who now have a bar to aim at. We are hurting right now, but we will be back fighting in Michigan in two years’ time!”

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The Cairns Cup – How it All began

The Cairns Cup came about after a group of disabled golfers arranged a game of golf in Florida in 2018. However, the friendly golf match soon turned sour when Billy Cairns (from Kilmarnock in Scotland) sadly passed away of a heart attack in his hotel room, the night before the event began.

This decimated both teams and the group vowed to honour Billy by organising a competition, in his name, that would highlight the best of disability golf and promote sportsmanship and the camaraderie shown throughout that fateful week.

The Cairns Cup – The Format

Their vision was that teams are made up of sixteen players each side, but only twelve played each day in:

  • 6 x Fourballs, 6 x Foursomes (Alternate shots)
  • 12 x singles – this allows for flexibility and injury. (The 2022 event proved this to be the right decision, having this flexibility, as Mike Browne (Europe) and Kenny Bontz (USA) both had to withdraw just before the event, due to injury. There were a couple of injuries during the week).
  • Each team comprises of players from six different countries in Europe or six US states with both teams showcasing twelve differing disabilities.
  • No limit on age, both teams fielding mixed-gender teams, making the Cairns Cup truly inclusive.

When players were originally selected, both teams used the following selection criteria:

  • No More than 8 Players having a WHS handicap index of 0 – 9,
  • Up to 12 Players having a WHS handicap index of 10 – 18,
  • At least 4 Players having a WHS handicap index of 19 – 54 (2 Must be 24 plus).

The Teams

Both teams employed Vice -Captains, one of which was Kris Aves. Kris (representing Europe) was paralysed in the Westminster terrorist attack after being hit by the van. 

Doctors told him he would never move his legs again. During the next three years he went through some pretty intense rehabilitation, both physically and mentally, but thanks to the amazing technology and following support from The Golf Trust, Kris has returned to golf using a Paragolfer. 

And with his dedication and determination to recover and play a full eighteen holes again, in was not long before his progress was recognised and he was asked if he would like to join the sixteen strong male and female European Team.

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Team Europe – Derek Milne Scotland, Tineke Loogman Netherlands, Kris Aves England, Trevor Crombie Scotland, Leon Emmen Netherlands, Christian Nachtwey Germany, Frans Harmsen Netherlands, Derek Rogers England, Roger Hurcombe England, Frank Sorber Germany, Nick Dodge England, Chris Foster England, Jennifer Sraga Germany, Pedro Sottomayor Portugal & Danny Hennessey England. Injured Mike Browne

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Team USA – Tracy Ramin Michigan, Jonathan Snyder North Carolina, John Bell Florida, Britton Munoz Oregon, Chris Osborne Alabama, Greg Hooper Georgia, Steven Ford Georgia, Jason Faircloth North Carolina, Vince Biser Maryland, Brandon Canesi New Jersey, Randy Clay Florida, Kevin Holland Michigan, Gary Hooks Florida, Kim Moore Indiana & Shea Taylor Georgia (Injured Kenny Bontz).

The Festival of Disability Golf

The week began on Monday with a sponsored fundraising day with more than one hundred golfers attending and raising money for future events.

Dave Edwards – Trick Shot Show – gave up his time to perform to the guests and gave a superb commentary of some of the attendees golfing abilities on the day, providing some comedy to the proceedings.

Later there was a fundraising dinner with over 160 people, including representatives from Amazon, The Samuel Ryder Foundation, EDGA, PXG and other businesses who contributed to the day. The event dinner, sponsored by LIME Solicitors, included a raffle and auction and raised over £7000 for The Cairns Cup.

Tuesday 10th May – both teams held a clinic (in support of The Golf Trust) with the kids from Hendon Reach Mencap in Barnet, the RFU injured players Foundation and Golfers with special needs from Gibraltar who all received coaching and took part in a Q&A with the players.

It is hoped that those who attended the workshop will become future players of the Cairns Cup.

Wednesday saw the Official Opening Ceremony attended by; Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet; Lindsay Bowman, representing US Embassy; Former Ryder Cup player, Eddie Polland; the Cairns Cup Ambassador, along with Billy Cairn’s daughters, Cheryl and Heather, and Billy’s brother, Bobby, bringing in The Cairns Cup, accompanied by Piper, Andrew MacGregor.

In addition, the ceremony was another opportunity to highlight disability with the Sing Out Choir (Autistic Singing Group) singing their hearts out to what has become The Cairns Cup Anthem, ‘Proud’, by Heather Small.

Kevin Booth, European Team Captain, welcomed team USA to which Tracy Ramin USA Captain responded.

The National Anthems were sung by two opera singers. Melissa Marshall – mother to USA player Brandon Canesi – sang ‘Star Spangled Banner’ while Camella Farrant sang the host country’s national anthem ‘God Save The Queen’.  

The Sing Out Choir then sang ‘Hey Jude’ before Theresa Villiers officially opened the Cairns Cup.

In addition, good luck video messages sent by the World’s biggest YouTube star, Rick Sheils, and another from Former Ryder Cup Player, Ian Poulter, really saw the excitement build in anticipation of the next three days of golf.

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The Golf – Day One

Following the opening ceremony were the Day 1 – Fourballs. The weather was awful with persistent rain for most of the round. The sun did shine towards the end of the round but it was too late for some of the seated golfers, who suffered with being cold and wet.

However, all players completed their matches like troopers – a testament to the spirit of the Cairns Cup. All the matches throughout the week were started by David Rose (Hickory Golf Days).

The historic opening shots at the 135yds Par 3 first, were all amazing, with the 2nd match giving the days highlights – Kris Aves Europe from his Paragolfer getting a 3 nett 1 by sinking a 30ft putt – and then John Bell USA getting a 2 nett 1, hole halved in 1.

Derek Milne / Trevor Crombie v   B Canesi / G Hooks        USA 2 up

K Aves / C Foster          v      J Bell / R Clay                            USA 1 up

F Sorber / J Sraga            v           V Biser / B Munoz            USA 2 & 1

D Rogers / N Dodge           v        J Snyder / S Taylor            USA 3 & 2

F Harmsen / T Loogman        v      S Ford / K Holland          USA 6 & 4

D Hennessey / P Sottomayor         T Ramin / C Osborne     USA 4 & 3

To be fair, the first day’s play was a whitewash for team USA. However, with two matches going to the 18th and 1 to the 17th, these matches could have gone either way. The result did definitely not reflect the standard of golf played in horrendous weather.

The Golf – Day Two

The second day brought better weather with plenty of sunshine, giving plenty of hope for the European team looking for a comeback in the Foursomes. 

Once again, the 1st tee shots into the green were of the highest standard. This was maintained throughout the day with 5 out of 6 games going to the 18th hole and the remaining game ending on the 17th.

This days’ golf couldn’t have been closer, but once again, Team Europe was on the wrong side with a loss 4.5 to 1.5. This left the match scored at 10.5 to 1.5 and team Europe with a mountain to climb in the singles.

C Foster / L Emmen       v      K Moore / G Hooper         Game Halved

D Hennessey / R Hurcombe    v    R Clay / G Hooks      Game Halved

T Loogman / D Milne        v     S Taylor / K Holland        USA 2 & 1

N Dodge / D Rogers          v     T Ramin / J Faircloth      USA 1 up

K Aves / J Sraga     v               J Bell / V Biser                  USA 1 up

C Nacthwey / F Sorber          J Snyder / S Ford              Game Halved 

The Golf – Day Three

Another highly competitive day saw both teams do disabled golf proud, with some excellent teamwork on display. It was great to see both teams talking, and thinking about their partners, ensuring mistakes were kept to a minimum.

Had the rub of the green gone the other way, this could quite easily have been Europe’s day but alas, the history books will say otherwise. Friday afternoon brought about a glorious day, weather-wise, but it looked too much for Europe to make a ‘Shock at The Shire’. There was still plenty of hope in the camp though.

C Foster            v              T Ramin              Europe win 4 & 3

D Hennessey   v              K Moore              USA win 6 & 4

J Sraga               v              V Biser                USA win 1 up

D Milne             v              B Canesi               USA win 3 &1

T Loogman       v              J Bell                    USA win 5 & 4

F Harmsen       v              S Ford                   Match Halved

D Rogers           v              J Snyder               USA win 2 & 1

R Hurcombe    v              G Hooks                USA win 6 & 4

F Sorber            v              C Osborne            USA win 5 & 3

L Emmen          v              J Faircloth           USA win 5 & 3

C Nachtwey     v              G Hooper              USA win 3 & 2

P Sottomayor v              B Munoz                USA win 6 & 5

Eventually, USA won the day with a 10.5 to 1.5 win, making a convincing match win 3 to 21. But it was disability golf that was the winner throughout the week, with both teams playing some superb golf and demonstrating great camaraderie and sportsmanship. 

Finally, the week ended on Friday night with a presentation dinner for The Cairns Cup winners and losing team. It was here, Tracy Ramin, the USA Captain was presented with the trophy by Cheryl and Heather Cairns, Billy’s daughters.

The Support

In a first for disability golf, the opening ceremony and the final day’s singles matches were broadcast LIVE via LIVESportNow YouTube feed and across a number of golf websites and social media feeds culminating, in more than 10K viewers watching, with many more viewing later. 

In addition, The Cairns Cup team can report the tournament reached more than 130K golfers around the globe, across all its social media and partner sites including www.thesocialgolfer.com facebook page >

Furthermore, the organisers would like to thank the headline sponsor for the 2022 event in AmazonPWD & AWS and Callaway, Adidas, PXG and Titleist for supporting the event. Having support from the golf industry helped lift the profile of the event to new heights.

Plus, there was support from Ottobock (artificial limb manufacturer) and Morello (Player Physio) ensuring all the players were fit and well throughout the event and GD score for live scoring. 

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The Legacy

The Cairns Cup became a Community Interest Company, supported by British Inclusive Golf, The Social Golfer, The Golf Trust, US Adaptive Golf Alliance & United States Disabled Golf Association in July 2020.

With the overriding objective to ensure that The Cairns Cup is a flagship event for inclusive golf, with any disability organisations in Europe and the USA able to nominate players making sure that anyone with a disability can be involved. 

The organisers hope this event will grow from year to year, with The Fortress Golf Club in Frankenmuth, Michigan, already named as the next venue in 2024.

It is here, The Cairns Cup winners of 2022 – Team USA – will defend the trophy for the first time.

The course, designed in 1992 by golf architect Dick Nugent, reflects characteristics of golf’s early Scottish origins. Fescue-covered mounds reveal well-guarded, sectioned greens. 

Bent-grass tees, greens and fairways surround seventy-five bunkers. Each of the huge greens averages 7,500 square feet. The Fortress encompasses 6,813 yards of formidable play on an 18-hole, par 72 course.  

The event will then return to Europe at Celtic Manor in 2026, Celebration in Florida in 2028 and San Roque in Spain in 2030. Each of the mentioned venues have bought into the future of the Cairns Cup, so the future looks very bright.

Talking to www.thesocial golfer.com after the week, Kevin Booth said

“I have dedicated the last four years of my life to getting this event off the ground and I could not be prouder of everyone involved – the players, the volunteers, all the sponsors, the staff at the hotel and of course, the staff at The Shire – London. We showed the world that competition for disabled golfers with differing disabilities is not only needed but it is wanted by the golfing community as a whole…Michigan here we come!”

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The Cairns cup is a “Ryder Cup Style” match-play event between golfers with various disabilities from Europe and USA.

The event is also presented as a DISABILITY GOLF FESTIVAL with the following aims: 

  • Establish a competitive event for those with a disability 
  • Raise Awareness of Disability Golf 
  • Provide a platform to raise funds to promote golf for all 
  • Leave a legacy for future generations 

For more information visit www.thecairnscup.com >>

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