On Thursday Chris Wood won his first match at the ISPS Handa SA Disabled Match Play tournament, in which 16 disabled golfers will compete over four rounds at Zwartkop Country Club.
ÂWeÂre not used to match play, but itÂs very nice. Each hole is another challenge, starting from the next tee, and I enjoy it so much. ItÂs such an honour for us disabled guys to be up here amongst the pros,Â he said.
The disabled match play tournament is a world-wide first. Five British and 11 local golfers leapt at the opportunity to play in conjunction with the Sunshine Tour.
ÂToday was really a great experience,Â said Wood. ÂI was firing on the front and then scrambled it home at the end. YouÂve got to get the line right here, and the pin placement wasnÂt easy either, but if you mess up a hole there are still a lot more that you can count on.Â
The five foreigners gained entry through the On Course Foundation, which is an initiative that uses golf to help British military servicemen and women who have been disabled during their service. The foundationÂs founder and chairman John Simpson managed the likes of Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer and Dale Hayes. He saw an opportunity to use golf as a vessel for recovery and reintegration.
ÂI realized that golf is the only game that puts everyone on the same level, even if they are disabled, because of the handicap system.
ÂThe On Course Foundation was launched in 2010, and we teach golf on a long-term basis to injured, current and former servicemen and women. We then get them work experience and full-time employment within the golf and related industries,Â he said.
There was plenty of excitement during the first round at Zwartkops, but only eight of the 16 could claim victory. Woods led the way, taking a 2&1 victory over Christo De Jager.
Daniel Slabbert, the 2011 Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open champion, was clinical in his 8&7 victory over BritainÂs Paul Skivington. Slabbert, who plays off scratch, will take on Wood in the quarter-final tomorrow.
20-year-old Reinard Schuhknecht, whose ambition is to pay on the main tour, took a convincing 6&4 victory over Paul Swain. Swain incurred his injuries in Afghanistan in May last year and has made massive progress in the game.
David Ward lost his right leg due to an aeroplane crash in January 1989. He faced one of the more senior South Africans, Trevor Reich, who finished tied 16th at the Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open last year. Ward managed his way to a 4&3 win.
It took an extra hole for Conrad Stoltz to overcome Riaan Spreeth, while Stuart Ellis and James Hourigan played right to the 18th before the latter won.
Nico Wentzel managed to wrap up his match with Ian Bishop by the 17th, taking a 2&1 win. Rupert Fortman, on the other hand, dealt with Andrew Boltman quickly, taking a 7&5 win.