A total of 72 disabled athletes from across the globe will take to the tees at East Sussex National GC, on September 20-21 – with the event truly living up to its claim as the ‘the most inclusive pan-disability event in the country’.
Competitors with a wide range of disabilities will fly in from South Africa, Pakistan, Spain, Ireland and Germany to line up against UK entries and their ages range from 16 to 71.
Plus, four members of the GB Special Olympics team will also be participating in the contest which will be played out over the 7,138-yard, Robert E Cupp-designed East course.
Last year’s inaugural event at Old Thorns, in Hampshire – which was broadcast on Sky Sports – was one of 15 projects delivered in the south-east through the Accentuate programme, set up as part of region’s drive to create a cultural shift in the way disabled people are perceived by celebrating excellence and showcasing talent, in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Accentuate is funded by SEEDA and Legacy Trust UK, an independent charity set up to leave a lasting cultural and sporting legacy from the 2012 Games.
And Andy Barwell, from Hampshire-based organiser the Azalea Group, is delighted with the huge and swift response from disabled golfers worldwide. He said: “To be honest I’ve been shocked by the interest from abroad. We knew the event proved popular here in the UK and the coverage on Sky Sports helped get the message out further. But we were receiving enquiries almost daily from potential overseas competitors.
“I think we could organise a completely continental field were it not for the prohibitive costs of air fares these days. We will have three women participating this year – which is an increase of 200 per cent on the 2009 event. And we have considerably more single-figure golfers – so the competition at the top end will be very stiff.
“We’re delighted with the reaction and believe the event will grow exponentially from this solid start of the past two years.”
His pleasure at seeing the field fill up was echoed by Esther Appleyard, Accentuate’s joint programme director. She said: “It is testament to the quality of the event that so many people have entered so quickly. The DBO is a fantastic way of approaching disabled golf while celebrating the talents of our disabled sports people.
“Anybody who witnessed last year’s competition could not fail to have been impressed by the high skill levels. It was a high-quality event in every way and I hope the competitors enjoy the competition at East Sussex National as much as they did last year’s inaugural championship.”
Meanwhile, Barwell is also receiving numerous enquiries from people offering to volunteer as marshals, ball-spotters, buggy drivers and caddies.
A free, four-day, spectator safety level two NVQ course – a qualification in crowd marshalling and stewarding – is on offer to volunteers, courtesy of Telford College of Arts and Technology.
And Barwell added: “Many of those who volunteered at last year’s DBO in Hampshire, have already intimated they would like to come back to East Sussex National and help out again. A lot of people recognised how the event contributes hugely to the progress of disability golf and are incredibly keen to help. This year’s DBO is a slightly larger event and we will need even more volunteers to help in crucial roles.”