A champion of blind golfers who has been on a 20-year crusade to get more of them playing the game is in line for a prestigious coaching award.
Anders Mankert, the head PGA Professional at Cosby Golf Club, has been nominated in the disabled coaching category for the UKCC (United Kingdom Coaching Certificate) National Coaching Awards.
The Swede has made it a personal mission to encourage more visually impaired golfers to play golf – giving free coaching to any blind golfer and also championing their cause in the local media to find guides to help them play.
Mankert hosts regular day clinics at his Leicestershire club for the England & Wales Blind Golf Association and golfers travel from across the UK to attend.
But it’s not just coaching – Mankert also actively engages local media to unearth playing guides which are vital to accompany blind golfers.
“Without guides they can’t play, it’s as simple as that,” said Mankert who has recently been awarded PGA Advanced Fellow Professional status. I had one lad in Stevenage who was unable to get a guide so he could not play. He tried with the local press but just had no response.
“It was the Stevenage Comet, and I rang them up and said ‘look you can potentially change this guy’s life. He is very depressed, he feels his life is over and you are in a position to get someone to be his guide.
“They ended up running a story and he had 17 replies of people offering to guide him. One of them went on to become a close friend.
“The golfer in question, Billy MacAllister has subsequently travelled to compete in Australia and the World Golf Championships in Japan and is the British No.1 blind and World No. 4 blind golfer. He’d never played golf before. He lives in Brighton and still comes to me for coaching – which is an eight-hour round trip.”
Mankert has coaching in the region of 80 such golfers over 20 years but admits it was more by luck than design that he first started coaching them.
‘‘A group of blind and visually impaired people were on a range having a go, they have given the chance by a local help group or something. They came over a few weeks and I kept watching them and thought ‘I can help these guys’. I said look, if I can help you in any way I would be chuffed to do that. A few took up my offer and 20 years later I still coach a couple of them.”
The challenge has also enhanced Mankert’s coaching skills.
“It’s very hands on, you are putting them in position, it is very physical and you are also working with their guide/caddie so they can help them when they are out on the course.
“It’s very much a team – the player, the guide and me. We also use different gadgetry.
“For example I use a metronome so they can hear the rhythm. It’s been great for me as a coach – I have probably got as much out of it as they have.”
Despite a busy schedule as a club pro with coaching, custom-fitting and the day to day managing of his club, Mankert remains committed to helping blind golfers.
“I don’t charge them anything for coaching and that offer stands for any blind or visually impaired golfers.
“Some have been blind since birth, others go overnight but they all share the same emotion – they feel their life is almost over. But ironically, one of what you might think is the most difficult sports for a blind or visually impaired person to learn, golf, turns out to give them an incredible sense of purpose. Something they never thought they could do, they can and it is unbelievable the joy they get when you see the transformation and improvement. It genuinely changes their lives.”
Mankert’s efforts were recognised last year when he was made an Honorary Life Member of the England & Wales Blind Association. Now his efforts are being recognised by the UKCC at their national awards at Holiday Inn, Wembley on November 29.
“It is lovely to get nominated in such for such an award. I rang a couple of the blind guys to tell them and it is huge for them as well.”
Anders can be contacted via email@example.com