Date: November 11, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Nothing out of bounds for Aidan and his mates

Next time you moan about feeling a little stiff on the first tee, spare a thought for Aidan Barry and his mates.

Actually, check that. Aidan would not want your sympathy.

Aidan is 18. He’s a member at Adelaide’s Westward Ho Golf Club, but also plays and trains in the Adelaide Shores Golf Park.

Oh yeah, he also has no upper limbs, has congenital cardiac conditions and has been pacemaker-dependent since he was two years old.

Aidan is the captain of an inspirational sporting group beginning to make a name for itself in South Australia – the No Handicap Golf Club.

And to hear him speak of NHGC – an all-inclusive club run by Disability Recreation and Sports SA – is a breath of fresh air.

The group holds fortnightly Saturday clinics, then follows up with nine-hole on-course activities several times a month.

“It’s fantastic for everyone who comes along,” Aidan enthused.

“I always wanted to play golf – I started at age eight – but for a while there wasn’t really a group where we could come together to play and train.

“But the NHGC is a pretty cool thing for us all – just being outside and being active is great and you can see everyone who comes really gets into it and tries to learn as much as they can.”

That “everyone” is no ordinary group.

There are players with learning disabilities, a cancer survivor and a gentleman with an acquired brain injury among its members.

“The guy with the ABI says it’s the best thing he’s ever done,” Aidan said proudly.

“For all of us, it’s about getting back into the community as much as we can. Golf is a great sport for rehab and to get movement back into joints.”

Adelaide Shores teaching professionals Anne-Marie Knight and Cody Sherratt train the group – and some of its members on an individual basis.

Aside from watching the NHGC thrive on their passion for the sport, Knight said she was also inspired by their determination to “just do things normally”.

“Clearly there are some differences in how we have to teach from our usual (clients), but they are all fantastic and really revel in doing a sport that allows them to compete against everyone else,” she said.

“Aidan is a typical 18-year-old. He’s very competitive, doesn’t like losing and thinks he can do anything.

“And I suppose this is actually setting about proving that right. Despite everything he faces, he’s so positive and competitive. He has an incredible amount of self-belief – and that really shows up when he’s out playing matchplay.”

Aidan has an official Golf Australia handicap of 36.4 and, according to Knight, is a very good putter.

“He has modified sticks (a full set) and tucks the club up under his chin and near his right shoulder,” Knight said.

“So it’s obviously a little different to a `normal’ swing, but he’s really improving and his swing has become a lot more consistent since the group has been going.”

Aidan can knock his driver out in the 120-150m range and, Knight says, is rapidly overcoming the disadvantage of not being able to nestle down over his shorter irons.

“He has a pretty good short game … but his main thing is he’s so competitive.”

Aidan doesn’t deny his eagerness for victory.

But typifying his drive to ensure his new mates have every opportunity available, he’s just as keen to see golf become a regular Paralympic fixture.

“They’ve been trying to get golf in the Paralympics; that would really help us all with (exposure),” Aidan said.

“Hopefully in 2024 we might see them in the Games – it would help put us on the same level as (Adam) Scott and (Jason) Day in showing what golf can do.”

They’re lofty goals for a young man on a mission for which he clearly has a passion.

But, as Knight says, there’s no stopping Aidan when has his mind set on something.

“Aidan is great because he not only loves golf himself, but he helps us inspire the others in the group,” she said.

“He’s helping us in our ambition, too … (which is) to encourage anyone with disabilities to give golf a go.

“One of the main things is that while we modify the way we teach, the experience for the group is hopefully the same as for anyone else.

“We have flexible measures to adapt to the level of physicality, but the game is ultimately the same and all these guys just want to be treated the same as everyone else who plays.

“Everyone is treated the same – and that’s the beauty of golf.”