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Getting to Know: Craig Stirton

He’s the Media Liaison for the South African Disabled Golf Association, providing some interesting insight into how this part of the game in South Africa is run and organised.

Q: What’s the history behind the South African Disabled Golf Association and how long has it been in existence?
A:
The South African Disabled Golf Association was established as a Section 21 Company in 2004 by disabled individuals eager to give people with physical and/or sensory disabilities the opportunity to participate in and enjoy the game of golf.

Q: How many administrators and staff work for the SADGA – both full-time and part-time?
A:
In a full-time capacity we have three employees, led by Operations Manager Lily Reich. Zhaan Felix serves as Administration Assistant, while I’m the media liaison. The SADGA also has a team of 22 coaches who work part-time. The SADGA has a board of directors consisting of six members and led by SADGA Chairman Enver Hassen and Executive Director Craig Moorgas.

Q: Are there different categories of disabled golf or disabled golfers?
A:
There is a ‘Physically-Disabled’ category consisting of amputees, wheelchair, blind golfers and individual-termed ‘Les Autres’ golfers – meaning “all others”. In other words, those golfers who suffer from Cerebral Palsy and other conditions that affect gross motor function among other things. Deaf golfers, meanwhile, make up a division of their own in tournament play.

Q: What relationship does your organisation have with GolfRSA?
A:
The SADGA has signed a Memorandum of Intent with GolfRSA and since doing so has had a seat on the GolfRSA board – occupied by Executive Director Craig Moorgas. The SADGA’s alignment with GolfRSA has gone a long way to giving disabled golfers a voice within South African golf structures. Moreover, the SADGA receives financial support from GolfRSA, which has helped cover the cost of running the SADGA head office. The SADGA has also benefitted from the sharing of resources such as tournament officials, content producers etc.

Q: What impact has Covid-19 had on SA disabled golf?
A:
It resulted in the cancellation of our four fundraisers in 2020, which was a tremendous blow to the association’s financial resources. Furthermore, our monthly regional days held in various provinces throughout the country had to be reimagined. Rather than have 50+ golfers congregate for a Regional Day, the board of directors chose instead to implement ‘Virtual Regional Days’. Each month golfers have a seven-day window during which they can play alongside a fellow SADGA member. The golfers then submit their scorecards and their scores count towards the Virtual Regional Day Order of Merit. Furthermore, the SADGA board’s strategy was to concentrate on talent within the First Swing Program, as opposed to the larger groups, as coaching sessions had to be smaller. This proved to be very successful as a number of FSP golfers obtained their first official handicaps. Five of our schools have modified golf environments and the teachers continued to run the golf session safely and successfully. Prior to lockdown, teachers and physios went on the PGA ‘Grow Golf’ coaches’ course.

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Q: What impact has it had on your Canon SA Disabled Golf Open?
A:
The Canon SA Disabled Golf Open has been restructured into four smaller regional opens that form part of the Canon Open Series and culminate in a Champion of Champions final. The series begins with the Canon KwaZulu-Natal Disabled Open, followed by the Canon Cape Town Open, the Canon Port Elizabeth Open, and the Canon Joburg Open. The winners from each event will participate in the Canon Champion of Champions event, which will ultimately determine the Canon SA Disabled Golf champion for 2021.

Q: Does the SADGA have sponsors and how does it generate revenue?
A:
The SADGA has a number of incredibly supportive sponsors. Canon South Africa is the longest-serving sponsor of South African disabled golf and has also been the title sponsor of our national open for the past three years. Nomads are another great sponsor and have been particularly supportive of our deaf junior interschools event by supplying apparel and golf clubs to our young golfers. The SADGA is also grateful for the ongoing support of the provincial golf unions throughout the country, which helps sustain disabled golf in the respective regions. The KwaZulu-Natal Golf Union in particular have helped disabled golfers in their region tremendously. Volkswagen South Africa – the association’s vehicle sponsor – ensures the safe transport of our golfers to and from events across the country.

Q: Roughly how many competitive disabled golfers are there in SA?
A:
250 active golfers, who all play competitively in their respective divisions.

Q: What are the main events on the SA disabled golf calendar?
A:
The Canon SA Disabled Open and the SADGA Provincial Challenge. For our junior golfers, meanwhile, there are regional interschools events that feature physically-disabled children, while the best deaf junior talent is identified through the SA Deaf Interschools tournament.

Q: Are there any particular golf courses in South Africa that have a close association with the SADGA?
A:
The homes of SA Disabled Golf in the various regions are as follows: Gauteng – Zwartkop Country Club, with SADGA patron Dale Hayes instrumental in ensuring the longstanding affiliation; KZN – Mount Edgecombe Country Club; Eastern Cape – Port Elizabeth Golf Club; Western Cape – King David Mowbray Golf Club.

Q: Has South Africa had disabled golfers who have performed on the world stage?
A:
A few. Most notably, Reinard Schuhknecht has won the World One-Arm Championship four times and has been crowned the World One-Arm Long Drive Champion on five occasions. Leg-amputee Trevor Reich, meanwhile, has participated in a number of international disabled golf events and although he is yet to win one, he has flown the South African flag high with a number of impressive performances. South Africa has also hosted two editions of the World Cup of Disabled Golf, which has allowed us to showcase the disabled golf talent in our country. The SADGA is desperate to form a South African team that can participate more regularly on the international stage in future. This is dependent on whether it receives the necessary funding, however.

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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