As TSGers know, we always keen to help promote disabled golf whenever we can and this year is no exception. We asked TSGer Paul Houghton to send us his report…
The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 – The venue…
Venue: Vila Sol Golf Club, Pestana, Portugal (17th – 19th November 2015)
Playing in my first official EDGA event, I’ve now been back a few days and have had time to digest the experience overall and below is a summary of my experience.
There were about forty players in attendance some with partners. Most were together in their nationalities, especially the French which is understandable under the circumstances. (This was a week after the attacks in Paris).
I had arrived on the same flight as Andy Gardiner (Top British disabled player, he plays off a handicap of 4) and Will Hennessey (fellow hacker!). We were met and picked up from the Airport and transported to the hotel by Manon and Tony & Sue Bennett (EDGA Officials), who were both friendly and could not have been more helpful from the moment we arrived.
We checked in and rooms were excellent and all had balconies. There were swimming pools inside and out, and spa treatments were available (if you wanted them), I could tell I was going to be comfortable here!
There were also games rooms and plenty of places to relax as you prepare for the event and the food was fantastic all round. Everything was laid on and ran like clockwork….
The Clubhouse itself is fully accessible (although not that big), the staff are friendly, the beer and food is fantastic and very reasonable. The terrace beside the 18th Fairway is a great place to watch and eat lunch though balls to often come over the netting as Karen (my good lady) witnessed. (Will Hennessey also hit a lady while sky-ing his approach shot – tut tut!).
The Clubhouse is located only about 300 yards from the hotel ( I did carry my clubs to the golf club) but I need not have. You could pick up a buggy and drive back or the hotel would arrange to have you brought to the club.
In short, I really like EDGA…No complaints at all as to the running of the event. I had to undertake a medical, but that was done with dignity and very professionally handled.
The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 – Practice, Practice, Practice…
A practice round was booked for Wednesday but managed to sneak in a bit of a practice on Tuesday evening too. It was a hot 22 degrees, which my body did struggle to come to terms with. I think you need more than one day to acclimatize especially if you are not playing golfers from the same country.
However, let’s not start getting in the excuses just yet….
I was very impressed to see ‘Ping‘ were set up with two professionals on the practice ground they were very helpful and very supportive towards the British players. They Offered tips and trials on …all their equipment but more on Ping another time…
I was down to go out just after 11.00am, when I got to the tee it appeared people had just gone off with their friends. It did not bother me as I jumped in with Will Hennessey and Mike Lincoln (Will’s Irish and Mike is a fellow Brit).
The first hole at Vila Sol is a brute even after you have hit a decent drive and because it’s a 400 yard par four you tend to try and kill it off the tee.
Anyhow, the three of us had great fun. I bought some balls half way round off a local lad £10 for 8 Pro V’s. I’d already lost four (!); I only contrived to lose two more over the next three days!
We went round in a little over four hours the three of us not having a clue where we were going.
I shot 95 so was happy having an eight on the first, I birdied the fourth so was looking forward to breaking 90 in the first round. Mike struggled a bit but went on to play really well in the actual tournament.
The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 – The tournament…
My tee time for 1st round was at 10.30am a nice time I thought I was drawn against a Dutch Para-Golfer (Wheelchair user) lovely guy who had a Dutch golf referee as his caddy, I was not offered a caddy.
As a para-golfer, Jürgen was fast but still took three times as long as me. Sitting in the buggy in the hot sunshine I nearly dropped off to sleep – not great prep for being competitive!
All in all, I had a terrible round I hit so many trees, Jürgen nicknamed me the ‘Lumberjack’! By the 16th I wanted to walk in…..the greens had been cut in the morning and were super-fast. this meant we were out on the course 5+ hours, ridiculous given the group in front finished 3 holes in front of us. I shot 104 but did not care I just wanted a beer!
The organisers were sympathetic as to slow play but what can they do Para- golfers cannot play any quicker? Jürgen had a poor round as well. I went back on the practice ground after the lager and fell in love with the Ping G30…again! (Did the beer change things?)
I had a restless night before the final day. I had finished very near the back of the field shooting 104 which was my worse round of 2015, the course was tough with a Slope Rating of 130 so all of us got 3 shots, but I let the slow play and narrow fairways get the better of me.
Sadly, in addition, my stump had swollen up overnight to the size of a watermelon, so I had to dose myself up with Ibuprofen my tee time was 8.00 am, with a one-handed Frenchman ‘Axel’.
Worse still, the Ping team had left the night before so I had to sort my alinement out by myself!
Andy and Will were not lighting the place up either so there was very little camaraderie amongst the Brits. Perhaps we weren’t playing as a team enough…..The French, Dutch, Swedes all drank, ate and practiced together!
So here I was, at the EDGA Portuguese Open 2015. I teed off into the winter sun, down the middle hit a good second shot, my approach on the first was online but we never found the ball? The sun was so low you could barely see the green. So with a ‘drop’, I scored 7 after 2 putting!
I lost my drive left into water on the second and was already facing a nightmare. My opponent had had a 5 and a par when we walked to the stroke index 1, the third. I scored a double bogey on this monster uphill par four on all three rounds; my opponent took nine (9)!
Anyhow, a scrambled a half decent 47 going out birdie-ing the 8th – a 530-yard par 5. We had already been out on the course well over two hours my opponents caddy kept apologising for how long her player took. He lasered every shot from the tee to the green, it drove me mad….
However, as he became tired and his game suffered more than mine. I shot 48 back nine, not good but after 5 and a quarter hours I was like a walking dead zombie…..
I finished 13th and 25th out of a field of 35 overall – so respectable but no silverware!
The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 – The Politics…
After the first round, I chatted to some of the other players and spoke at length with EDGA President – Tony Bennett. I was also amazed to hear that Jamie Blair (England Golf, Disabled CEO) had flown out to watch the first day, spoken with some of the British players but not to me?!
As there were only four of us, I think he should have made more effort, anyhow he was gone by the Wednesday evening. As an aside, I also subsequently found out that the Dutch team were paid 500 Euros to attend with a brand new shirt for each day,… the French had the same.
So why does golf’s British governing board want to help us in this way? N.B. And these were much bigger teams of players?! They give EDGA money each year, which goes toward supporting the event but out of the 40 odd players only 4 of them were Brits!
There is also already an agreed agenda on what impairments can take part, it does not look to me that anything other than physical impairment will be considered for these events. #discuss
To be honest playing alongside wheelchair users does not work for me as an amputee, a time system has to be considered. Some players want penalties for slow play administered, five hours plus in sweltering temperatures has to be addressed as amputees our body temperature climbs and fatigue kicks in.
I am trying to devise a way of combating slow play. This has to be achieved, EDGA will be looking at it seriously. I believe that penalties for groups taking more than 4 hours 30 minutes must come in.
So, hopefully, you’re now getting the flavour of the event, you’ll appreciate a two ball over 5 hours!
EDGA have volunteer marshals on every third hole, the marshals may be given the power to effect penalties – it’s some we have to consider for larger events.
For the next event I believe the DGA should try to enter more players, many DGA players would qualify if they were willing to undertake the medical scrutiny, certainly something to consider for some.
I know Mr.Bennett is passionate in developing a strong British contingent but right now I think like the other countries have the tournament as they want it; there are no plans as yet to have a UK EDGA tournament, although Tony intimated he wanted more players from the DGA (Disabled Golf Association) attending events.
The good news is that Sergio Garcia is now EDGA’s Patron – which will help raise the profile of these events!
In December 2015, the International Golf Federation has been excepted by the International Paralympic Committee – so it looks as though golf will be a Paralympic sport.
Pro’s – Great golf course, top players, superb hotel, good food… the weather!
Con’s – very few British players, not a course for high handicappers, slow play.
The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 – The finale…
The Gala evening was spectacular with an opera singer and harpist. The EDGA Portuguese Open 2015 gala evening was very professional a great occasion and a chance to mix with your fellow competitors. There were great speakers from all the winners. Andy Gardiner finished best of the Brits coming 7th.
Manuel De Los Santos won the event in a playoff from Mathieu Cauneau.
So would I enter again? Absolutely, the Portuguese EDGA Open 2015 was a great experience!
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