For the first time, New Zealand’s best-disabled golfers will have an opportunity to compete in the New Zealand All Abilities Open, to be run in conjunction with the New Zealand Open in February.
The 2020 New Zealand All Abilities Open will be a 54-hole stroke play event, with 18 holes to be played at Jack’s Point and The Hills on the second and third days of the 2020 New Zealand Open. After 36 holes, a cut will be made and the leading six players will join the New Zealand Open field on Sunday, being the first players to tee off in the final round at Millbrook Resort.
To showcase the inclusive nature of golf, the New Zealand All Abilities Open will be played from the same tees, under the same conditions, and at the same time as the New Zealand Open. The winner of the New Zealand All Abilities Open will be handed the trophy at the same presentation for the 101st New Zealand Open Championship.
The field will be made up of players with a range of disabilities and impairments, including physical, intellectual and visual and will involve the top twenty-four players from New Zealand based on the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD) and the top four Australians on the WR4GD, plus four invitations.
The R&A and the United States Golf Association announced the launch of The World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD) in 2019 with events being played in more than 20 countries to grow awareness and inclusivity globally.
New Zealand’s first world ranking event was held earlier this year at Maraenui Golf Club in Napier, won by Guy Harrison. The 18-year old Napier Boys’ High School student and prefect is one of the first players to qualify for the event.
Guy had a seizure when he was just two years old causing brain damage and cerebral palsy like symptoms, unable to use his hands or not able to walk. After being advised by doctors to be as active as possible, golf came to mind and started with walking around on the local nine-hole golf course with his father.
When asked about his upcoming opportunity Guy said, “I just can’t believe it, just to go and rub shoulders with all those famous golfers like Ryan Fox would be such an awesome opportunity.”
New Zealand Golf adopted an Inclusion Charter in 2018 and have made a commitment to developing and fostering an inclusive and diverse sport which reflects the changing society.
No Exceptions, a fund administered by Halberg Disability Sport Foundation and Sport New Zealand is supporting New Zealand Golf to deliver a new project with a select number of venues across New Zealand for young people with a disability to start their journey in golf to learn new skills, have fun, make new friends and to just have a go.
The launch of New Zealand All Abilities Open aims to showcase the uniqueness of golf as a game that can be played by anyone and to inspire people to play golf in a way that is meaningful to them.
Dramatic Finish in Australia
While New Zealand will conduct its first All Abilities Open in 2020, the Australian All Abilities Championship finished in a dramatic play-off between defending champion Johan Kammerstad of Sweden and Canada’s Kurtis Barkley – the last player into the field – finishing the 72 holes tied at 23-over 236.
With extra holes needed to decide the outcome, the pair returned to the 18th tee and waited for the final group of the Emirates Australian Open to tee off before hitting off immediately behind them.
With huge galleries watching on as Matt Jones holed out for a one-shot victory over Louis Oosthuizen, Kammerstad and Barkley waited nervously back in the fairway to hit their third shots.
“The playoff was awesome,” said eventual runner-up Barkley.
“Just a dream come true right there. To play in a professional event, TV cameras everywhere, people everywhere.…you couldn’t even see the grass there were so many people.”
Both hit good drives and good lay-up shots but it was Kammerstad’s third that proved the difference.
“It was nerve-wracking,” he said of hitting in front of such a big crowd. “But it worked out.”
The on-course competition and stunning finish was important for several reasons according to Golf Australia Inclusion Manager Christian Hamilton.
After a successful debut in 2018, he said he couldn’t be happier with how the 2019 competition had unfolded.
“I’m thrilled for the two guys in the playoff and what a show they put on,” he said.
“But it has just been a fantastic week at so many levels. The players were better this year and the crowds were better as well.
“And what this has done for the sport going forward, with making the case to be in the Paralympics and just moving the whole thing forward….I honestly couldn’t have asked for more.”