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Charity calls for disabled golfers to receive greater support

By Steven Beacom

Golfers with a disability should be provided with greater backing from the sport's authorities, according to the leading wheelchair golf charity in the United Kingdom.

Dr Andrew Greasley, chairman of the HandiGolf Foundation, believes that players like Northern Ireland's Mark Gibson, who recently won the European Wheelchair Golf Championship, ought to be offered more support and financial assistance by the powers that be.

Greasley admits that the Royal and Ancient, golf's governing body, has helped non able bodied golfers in some areas but feels much more could be done.

"It starts at the top with the Royal and Ancient at St Andrews," said Greasley.

"They have been quite helpful giving us financial support and they were good enough to modify the rule book for disabled golfers but we do believe they can do more.

"I want to form a disabled golfing union to promote the interests of our golfers and I would like the R and A to help us with that in terms of funding and to achieve other long term objectives.

"People like Mark Gibson have no help financially and we would like to see that change and make some real progress for our golfers in that area.

"It costs a massive amount of money for Mark to travel to England and to tournaments in Europe. He is proving to be a success and should be encouraged to continue to achieve in the game."

Dr Greasley, who wants to see golf in the Paralympics one day, added that he feels sporting bodies in Northern Ireland should rally behind champions like Gibson.

The Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) is in control of the game on the island.

Kevin Stevens, the General Secretary of the Ulster Branch, paid tribute to Mark's success and added that the GUI try to help everyone participate and enjoy the sport.

"Golf has compiled a separate set of rules for golfers with a disability or blind golfers. It adapts itself so that people with a disability can play," said Stevens.

"We want to see as many people, young and old, male and female, able bodied or with a disability, take part and enjoy the game.

"In terms of finance for golfers with a disability we do what we can and while we do not pay for tournaments held by, for instance, the Northern Ireland Blind Golfers Association, we do support them how we can.

"Regarding individual clubs and membership schemes they may offer for golfers with a disability, that is not a matter for us.

"However, we always encourage participation in our sport across the board and would like to send our congratulations to Mark Gibson on his recent success."

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