Between the largest Portuguese golf tournament and the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) there’s a social responsibility partnership that’s bearing fruit in Vilamoura.

Between the largest Portuguese golf tournament and the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) there’s a social responsibility partnership that’s bearing fruit in Vilamoura.

For the third consecutive year, the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) was the official social responsibility partner for the Portugal Masters. As in the previous two years, the 2018 Masters (played 19-23 September at the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, Vilamoura) featured some of EDGA’s best players who put on a public demonstration of their skills, and in the process raised more than €20,000 for the Association – courtesy of the European Tour and the tournament spectators.

EDGA is for players with a disability and has often been supported by Turismo de Portugal and Turismo do Algarve through the staging of some of the Association’s most important events.

“Once again, we had the pleasure of being the charitable partner of the Portugal Masters at the Dom Pedro Victoria”, explained PGA master golf professional Tony Bennett, EDGA President since 2014. “This year we had six players who hadn’t participated in the event before and everyone was there on merit – through the ranking system for players with disabilities (R4GD),” he added.

The EDGA team included: from Holland, Richard Kluwen, a wheelchair player with a golf handicap of 11 and winner of the 2018 EDGA European Championship held at Troia last June; the Swedish National Champion, Joakim Bjorkman, of short stature with a playing handicap of 3; also from Sweden, Rasmus Lia, an orthopedic with a handicap of 1 and bronze medalist at Troia; Englishman, Kevin Harmison, a leg amputee with a playing handicap of 1; fellow Englishman, George Groves with erbs palsy disease and a playing handicap of 3; and also from Holland, Daphne Van Outen, an orthopedic with a handicap of 2.

As guests of the European Tour this sextet gave two clinics – one at the driving range and one on the putting green. And to top off this demonstration of their skills and abilities, on the Saturday evening they participated in a shoot-out, played on the 18th hole, with some of the tour pros participating in the Portugal Masters.

“It’s fantastic to see golfers with different levels and types of disabilities here at the Portugal Masters, and it’s sensational the way they play such amazing golf,” said the Tournament Director, Peter Adams. “I think it’s a fantastic cause, we’ll do everything we can to encourage them to get involved in the sport of golf, to take advantage of everything the game has to offer.”

Filipe Silva, Director of Turismo de Portugal, thanked the initiative: “I would like to congratulate the European Tour for choosing EDGA as the official charity of the Portugal Masters for the third year in a row. It’s relevant and it blends perfectly with all that we have done with our “all to all” programme that improves the experience of all disabled persons with any specific requirements that decide to visit Portugal through the intervention on the touristic infrastructure.”

Tony Bennett recalls that the World Health Organization estimated that 15% of European citizens suffer from some form of disability whether physical, sensory or neuro-developmental. “If you look at a population of 600 million, that means there are 9 million people in Europe with a disability”. “Now, if we can attract say, 0.5% of that population, we’re talking about 450,000 people – that’s a potentially enormous market for golf.”

An international non-profit organization, EDGA was created in 2000, and Tony Bennett has been its President for the past four years. “The Association has grown remarkably,” he says. “In early 2014 we had eight federations, today we have twenty eight. We had four tournaments in four countries, today we have fourteen tournaments in eleven countries. And all this progress has come about through voluntary work, except the Secretary-General, who’s paid a symbolic amount. We have very good people working with us, full of knowledge and experience, supporting a number of projects and associations around Europe and several in Portugal. ”

EDGA has three main objectives:

1) To make sure that all people with a disability are given the opportunity to at least try golf. “It doesn’t matter if you play or are going to be playing, but you should try it, because it’s a great sport for everybody: it’s played outdoors, it’s competitive, sociable and healthy”, stresses Tony Bennett.

2) To help all organisations that want to do something for disabled golf. “Provide them with the tools, materials and programmes so they can develop the sport,” explains Bennett.

3) To develop a world series of events and eventually to be included in the Paralympic Games. “For golfers with disability to have an increasingly competitive programme of events with federation run national events, international events with bodies such as The European Golf Assotiation, The R&A and The International Golf Federation.”

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