Wollongong residents turn out for introduction to golfing with a disability

Renewed connections: Nick Taylor (left) has credited Empower Golf with helping him develop social connections. Picture: Adam McLean
Renewed connections: Nick Taylor (left) has credited Empower Golf with helping him develop social connections. Picture: Adam McLean

Nick Taylor is a wheelchair basketball Paralympic medalist who has always wanted to play sport alongside able-bodied athletes.

He was finally able to do so when he was introduced to a program opening up golf courses for people with disabilities.

Taylor credits Empower Golf with providing him with renewed social connections and the ability to interact with able-bodied people on a level he would not have previously been able to achieve.

“I think for a start it’s given me a new passion, given me something I’m really interested in and keen to improve my skill level at,” Taylor said.

“Just having that focus on a sport and to get out and compete with able-bodied people and meet new people is really valuable.

“I’ve met a lot of different people through golf and the sense of community is something that I’ve got out of it.”

Taylor won silver for Australia at the London 2012 Paralympics, having previously represented South Africa at the Beijing Games 

He’s now hoping to inspire Illawarra residents who were introduced to the golf program at Kembla Grange Golf Course last week. 

The introductory session showcased the ParaGolfer, a modified wheelchair that enables those without full function of their legs to stand up and swing a golf club.

“It was fantastic to provide the opportunity to the community to come down and try a new sport,” organiser Lachy Foulsham said.  

“There were a few people who were keen to take further steps in their golfing, which was nice.”

The initiative was set up by Sydney man and former investment banker James Gribble in 2014, who became a quadriplegic following a fall.

Gribble attempted to use golf as part of his rehabilitation, however found courses typically weren’t designed with the disabled in mind. 

“When James Gribble did his research into the golf industry after his accident to become a quadriplegic, he found the golf industry as a whole didn’t have the infrastructure in order to host people with disabilities,” Foulsham said.

“Empower Golf is trying to change the industry so if you’ve got a disability there will be a golf course that you can go to and they understand what’s required to allow people with disabilities to play golf.” 

Since first picking up a club in 2015, Taylor has developed the confidence to be a regular on the fairways.

“I went to a couple of golf clinics that Empower ran at different locations around Sydney and got to the point where I was confident enough to get out on the course with Lachy and I just caught the golf bug and have been playing ever since.” Taylor said.

The former Paralympian also credits the program with helping him redevelop social connections with members of his family. 

“I’ve got to play with my two brothers, both able-bodied guys that have played golf, who I haven’t been able to connect with as much since my accident. Golf has enabled me to reform a connection and build on a relationship with them.”