In a world-first, golfers with disability will tee off at this year’s Emirates Australian Open, held in Sydney this November, in a move set to drive inclusivity of the sport.
The much-anticipated event will see 12 of the world’s top golfers with disability showcase their talent on the same course, at the same time and under the same playing conditions as able-bodied players, as they chase golfing glory at the Australian All Abilities Championship.
Golf Australian National Inclusion Manager, Christian Hamilton says he is thrilled that players with disability will have the same opportunity to share the global spotlight.
“This is far from an exhibition event. These are the world’s best players, as determined by their own world ranking system and they’ll face the same test as all the champions who’ll be battling for the Aussie Open,” he says.
The Open will help the International Golf Federation in promoting the inclusion of golf in the 2024 Paralympics in France, with the sport appearing on the shortlist.
Golf Australia’s Chief Executive Stephen Pitt says the concept is huge for golf in Australia as the organisation continues to work hard in driving inclusivity and accessibility of the popular sport.
“It’s fitting that Australia is at the forefront of inclusive golf and we can’t wait to see our fans’ reactions as they witness how dynamic these athletes are, for probably the first time.”
Australian Paralympic Committee’s Talent Specialist, Tim Matthews plays an important role in identifying the types of athletes with the capacity to be successful at the Paralympic Games, as well as creating fair competition for athletes with disability.
He says Australia has been a leader in the space of inclusivity, with the likes of Athletics Australia and Swimming Australia, amongst others, including athletes with a disability as part of state and national championship programs.
“Obviously competing at the same venue at the same time has its challenges for some sports, but it's great to see that Stephen Pitt and his team at Golf Australia, including Christian Hamilton have taken the lead on this,” he says.
“Golf is a sport steeped in tradition and protocol and it’s pleasing to observe the way that Golf Australia has embraced this space in recent times and I’m sure it will be extremely well received.”
He says including the top 12 players from around the world in the tournament will ensure an excellent product comprised of “the best of the best”.
Having competed in athletics at state, national and international level, Mr Matthews who was born without a left arm says he has been able to participate quite easily alongside able-bodied participants, but understands the difficulties that athletes with disabilities face.
“For the most part I think sport in Australia has great intentions, but it’s an area we all need to continue to strive towards ensuring everyone has access to the sports of their choice at the level their talent and desire enables them to compete at.”
He says this can be achieved through improved systems and processes, great leadership by sporting organisations, legislation and sports being held more accountable for received funding.
The Emirates Australian Open will be played at The Lakes Golf Club from November 15-18.
For more information on disability support and services, please visit DisabilitySupportGuide.com.au.