One-armed Schuhknecht plays Tshwane Open pro-am

16_TO_disabledNEWRichard Schuhknecht (left) is a right-hander who lost the whole of his right arm at age 14 when he misjudged a dive off a roof into a swimming pool and collided with 11,000 volts of powerlines and was electrocuted. That meant no more rugby and he taught himself to play golf.

His strength playing with just one arm is astonishing, and he once hit a 378-metre drive taking part in the Re-Max Long Drive championships in Jamaica. With one arm!

On Wednesday he took part in the Tshwane Open pro-am at Pretoria Country Club, alongside American professional John Hahn and larger-than-life Eugene Vorster, also a one-armed ‘bandit’, who runs disabled golf in South Africa.

Last year the powerfully built Schuhknecht achieved a coveted double, winning both the stroke play and the match play at the World One-Armed Championships in Ireland, to add to his match play crown of 2014. He then headed off to the US and finished second in both stroke play – with a couple of rounds in the 70s – and match play in the North American championships.

“I’m not playing that well today, though,” he confessed on Wednesday. “I pulled a couple of hamstrings and this is the first time I’m walking the course in two and a half months,” added the 24-year-old who is currently playing off a six handicap but has been as low as two with a best round of 69 at Maccauvlei.

Hahn was hugely impressed though: “I can’t believe how far he hits it. And what inspiring guys Reinhard and Eugene are. Today has been a wonderful learning experience for me, to see how positive and skilful a guy like Reinhard is after what he’s been through. He not only hits it far, but he’s got a wonderful touch around the greens, quite often using a hybrid to get up and down. It’s a bit like Todd Hamilton when he won the British Open. He used a hybrid from off the greens in the tournament and to beat Ernie Els in that play-off. I call Todd Mr Hybrid and Reinard’s also a Mr Hybrid.”

Also on the Pretoria Country Club course in Wedesday’s pro-am Matthew Booth, the former Bafana Bafana defender, was hitting some long shots as well – not always straight – off his 14 handicap.

Booth, of course, will be remembered as a fan favourite among South African fans when they chanted “Booooooth” when he touched the ball while British media outlets dubbed him ‘The White Knight’, as he was the only white player in the South Africa national squad.

He still plays soccer, for Randburg FC’s over-35 team. “It keeps me fit and I still love the game,” he says. “But I also love golf now. In my soccer days I’d play about once a month, now it’s once a week, either at Eagle Canyon or down in the Cape at Clovelly. My wife Sonja plays too which is great. I just love the walk, and the grass and fairways and greens so beautifully laid out. Golf’s totally different to football because you have to think of so many different things. And you can’t expect to play well if you don’t practice hard. But then there’s always that wonderful adrenalin rush when you do hit a good shot, and you soak it up – just like when something great happens to you on the football pitch.”

Currently a soccer analyst for SuperSport, Booth is currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in political science. A man of many parts then.

 

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