The first youngster to sign up for August’s inaugural Junior Disabled British Open will be a 16-year-old with cerebral palsy, for whom the event will be the culmination of a year’s lobbying.
Richard Warren, a 28-handicapper from, Ascot, in Berkshire, (pictured above) was so enthused with last year’s Disabled British Open golf championship that he immediately contacted organisers to enquire why there wasn’t a junior event.
And the event’s organisers were so impressed with the teenager’s enthusiasm and dynamism that they worked with him to launch this year’s inaugural Junior Disabled British Open.
Warren has been playing golf for eight years after his mother thought the game might prove physically beneficial.
He said: “I have a real passion for golf despite the cerebral palsy which affects all of my limbs. I first started playing at the age of eight when my mother thought it might be a good way of improving my hand-eye coordination.
“Although I was initially apprehensive when she took me to have an introductory lesson at the local driving range, from that moment on I was well and truly hooked on the sport.”
In 2005 Mill Ride GC, in Ascot, launched a competition among local schools to offer three junior golf scholarships. The determined Warren applied and, following an interview and golf assessment, proved successful in attaining one of the three places on offer.
He continued: “I am extremely grateful to Mill Ride GC as the scholarship not only improved my game but also boosted my confidence. I am now quite well known around the club and have been supported throughout by many members and, in particular, the staff.
“My only frustration with golf is that the nature of my disability is such that each golfing day is different. One day my game can be exceptionally good; on another extremely bad – however, this has never taken away from the enjoyment.
“What became apparent to me over a number of years was that there were seemingly very few junior disabled golfers, either male or female. And that motivated me to explore opportunities to bring young disabled golfers together so they can play and be inspired by their peer group.”
It was this determination – and a series of meetings with event organiser Andy Barwell – that led to the launch of the Junior Disabled British Open and, moreover, Warren’s participation in it.
“While taking part in various events I have met with some high-profile golfers, including Ian Poulter and Colin Montgomerie, who have expressed a keen interest in my endeavours,” added Warren.
“With the possibility of golf entering the Paralympics in the future I feel it is the right time to introduce disabled junior golf into the public domain and to encourage more disabled young people to enjoy the sport.
“Through the development of the first Junior Disabled British Open, I hope to inspire and encourage other young disabled juniors to pursue their passion and realise their potential.”
The event, for disabled youngsters aged between 12 and 18, will run alongside the third annual Disabled British Open at East Sussex National Golf Resort & Spa, from August 20-21 – the largest and most inclusive tournament in the country for disabled golfers. And Barwell, a director of organiser the Azalea Group, said enormous credit should go to the teenager for helping to get the event off the ground.
He said: “Richard is an inspirational young man. He’s very driven and determined and is destined for great things I’m sure. If at 16 he can persuade us that there is a need for a Junior Disabled British Open I’m sure he can be even more influential as he gets older.
“When we first met he stated his case convincingly and backed it up with facts and figures. I can’t imagine another occasion when a company would join with a 16-year-old to launch a new product. That’s testament to him as an individual and should prove a huge fillip to young people with disabilities.”
The senior event has received Government backing from both the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport, Jeremy Hunt MP, and the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller MP, who praised it for its inclusivity and legacy.
Hunt said: “The Disabled British Open golf championship is a fantastic example of how Britain can stage a world-class event for disabled athletes competing at the highest level. As a nation we should be very proud of the awareness this event has created, and the legacy of opportunities within sport for disabled people.”
And his parliamentary colleague added: “To hear that the Disabled British Open golf championships has encouraged disabled people to start playing golf for the first time is a wonderful achievement – and testament to the spirit of the competitors and will of the organisers.”
The 2010 event – the first to be played at the current venue – attracted a full field of 72 disabled athletes, with ages ranging from 16-71, from as far afield as South Africa, Pakistan, Spain, Ireland and Germany, in addition to a strong UK contingent.
The Sky Sports-broadcast event is delivered through Tourism South East as one of the projects of the Accentuate programme, which is funded by SEEDA and Legacy Trust UK – an independent charity set up to create a cultural and sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – and set up as part of the south-east’s drive to create a cultural shift in the way disabled people are perceived by celebrating excellence and showcasing talent.
John Williams, chairman of Tourism South East, said: “The Disabled British Open is one of many excellent projects we have delivered over the past few years. It has a burgeoning reputation and seems likely to go from strength to strength. We wish it continued success.”
The 2011 Disabled British Open and Junior Disabled British Open take place on August 20-21. A range of bespoke sponsorship and partnership packages for both events can be made available including title and headline sponsorship.
Entries will open in April. For further information contact championship organiser Andy Barwell on 07961 315520 or visit http://www.disabledbritishopen.org/