Deaf Sports Events20th July 2014

World Deaf Golf goes from strength to strength

The World Deaf Golf Championships in Michigan receives thumbs up from the competitors

by Sarah Lawrence

The Grand Traverse resort in Traverse City, Michigan played host to the 2014 World Deaf Golf Championships and while the majority of the winners came from North America the tournament produced some strong European results as well.

It was a fitting location for the tournament because it was in Michigan in 1994 that the meeting which resulted in the creation of the World Deaf Golf Federation took place. Englishman Kevin Whalley had spent eight years contacting deaf golf organisations and at the meeting, he along with representative from the USA, Canada, Australia and Scotland agreed that the first World Deaf Golf Championship would take place in England in 1995. Forest of Arden Country Club Resort in Warwickshire was the venue for that first championship with 58 golfers from eight countries taking part. The winner was American Doren Granberry with the USA also taking the team title.

In 2000, when the tournament was held in Sun City Resort, South Africa, three women took part in a demonstration event and the Ladies’ tournament was added at the 2002 WDGC in Ireland. It was won by Patty Sue Polysa of the USA. Two years later, the first Senior Men’s champion was Jun Oishi of Japan.

This year’s tournament was the tenth championship and 16 countries are now members of the WDGF. 14 of those countries were represented at the tournament with 111 golfers taking part, 65 men, 16 women and 30 senior men.

The opening round in the four round championships took place in unseasonably wet and cool weather but conditions improved for the remaining three days, with men’s champion Jack Besley saving his best for last, the young Australian shooting a superb 68 on the final day. Afterwards, Jack commented, “I thought I played okay in the first three rounds. Nothing too special but I made the most of a solid short game. The final round everything clicked for me and I hit solid shots all day and gave myself good chances for a birdie on nearly every hole.”

Jack was full of praise for his rivals, including Hans Elgaard of Denmark, who finished in second place, seven shots back and Michael Burris who was joint third with fellow Englishman Paul Waring, a further four shots back. Michael says that Paul could well have finished higher up the order but for an unlucky break on the 10th hole, where he took a nine. He was delighted with the team spirit among the English contingent, saying, “Our team and supporters were amazing everyone looked out for each other and we felt like one big family unit. The players helped each other with their games and when we finished playing we came back out to support players who were still on the course.”

It was the home team who won the men’s team event, finishing a comfortable 14 strokes ahead of England while Denmark finished in third place with Australia and Canada joint fourth.

The USA also took three of the top five places in the Women’s tournament including victory for 59 year old former professional golfer Patty Lopez. In second place was rising Norwegian star Andrea Hjellegjerde who later said of Patty, “All I can say is, wow! She has inspired me a lot. I have learnt much from her game and I will take that with me to the future.” She was pleased with her own game with the exception of her second round and praised the Championships, saying, “The WDGC is a great place to meet new people, or old friends but also a place where we can meet the best golfers who are hard of hearing or deaf. I have had so much fun with everybody, and I will for sure miss this championships. My future aims is that I really want to win once, but also inspire other deaf or hard of hearing to play golf or join the championships. Because behind all the serious things, we have had soooo much fun!  I’ve enjoyed this BIG TIME!”

Third place went to Leonie Warringa of the Netherland’s ahead of the USA’s Susan Zupnik while the winner of the inaugural Women’s Championship, Patty Sue Ploysa finished fifth. The USA also won the Women’s team title, ahead of Australia and South Africa, and the Senior Men’s team event ahead of Canada and Australia with England in fourth place.

Canada’s Kenneth Hoffman took the individual senior title after finishing tied after 72 holes with Keith Worek of the USA. Just one stroke back in third place was Charles Mikkers of the Netherlands.

Speaking after the tournament, President of the WGDF, Simeon Hart of England was delighted with the way things had gone, saying, “(The golf was a) very high standard compared to past championships. The winner, Jack Besley recorded a four under par 68 in the final round. Bill Roberts of USA scored one under 71! I'm sure that the future of the deaf golf will become more elite than before! This shows what deaf golf can achieve and show the highest standard in the golf world! It was so exciting to watch!”

Looking ahead, he expressed his ambitions for the future, saying, “I want to see more women playing golf in the next WDGC and beyond too! And to have international and national media, especially TV, to show the world that deaf golfers can play to the same, high standard as others in the golf world.”

The next Championships are scheduled to take place in Denmark, at the Royal Golf Club, Copenhagen from July 27th to 30th 2016.

Photographs kindly supplied by Arista Haas

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Events

20th July 2014