“You’ve only got two choices in this world – you either lie down, or you stand up.
“And disability golfers aren’t those to just lie down.”
In meeting Te Awamutu golfer Mick Henderson, something’s immediately clear – he’s got drive.
And not just in his golf game.
Largely, it’s that drive which has seen Te Awamutu Golf Club – where Mick’s the sole disability golfer among about 400 members – named to host a prestigious event open to both Kiwi and international golfers.
The 2023 Disability Golf New Zealand Open, to be held over two days in November, is coming to Te Awamutu.
It’s the first time the long-standing open has been held in town – and it’s expected to attract about 120 competitors.
Also open to able-bodied golfers, participants play in three categories, including World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (wr4gd), European Disabled Golf Association Access Pass (Edga-Access), and supporters and visitors’ divisions.
The day before the open, a have a go day is planned.
Mick and a handful of others are helping coordinate bringing the open to town – and with the Edga having a membership comprising 36 national federations, 14 of those from beyond Europe and New Zealand Disability Golf included, it’s hoped many international disability golfers will attend.
Simultaneously, Mick – who owned Alexandra Street’s The Redoubt Bar and Eatery for about 20 years – is getting behind facilitating fundraising efforts towards another first.
He’s helping raise $50,000 so Disability Golf New Zealand can purchase a paragolfer cart.
It is designed to help golfers living with a disability play and has the user strapped in the cart’s seat which can be adjusted from a seated position to suit various playing stances – including standing.
It is thought only one other such cart is in New Zealand – it is privately owned in Turangi.
Mick said having a cart owned by Disability Golf New Zealand – and regularly available for use in Te Awamutu and nationwide – would open doors to a “vast array” of people who have felt golf wasn’t possible.
He was diagnosed with a hereditary blood circulation problem in his 40s shortly after running his sixth marathon and both his legs were amputated below the knee in an 18-month timeframe when he was in his sixties.
He said he’s noticed a key difference in his game since his surgeries.
“I can’t drive the ball as far overall as I used to, but I seem to be able to hit it far straighter.
The 74-year-old has played golf since his twentie and discovered the open two years ago.
He’s since played in one held in Auckland – describing it as “incredibly special”.
Now, it’s “bloody outstanding” the event is coming to Te Awamutu.
“It’s amazing to play with such an incredible group of people. I’m blessed I’ve got fantastic mates around me who are so supportive.”
Te Awamutu Golf Club manager Mary Wano is equally excited.
“We’re absolutely honoured the open is coming here,” she said.
Disability Golf New Zealand president Andrew Woo said about 30 disability golfers have signed up so far, saying there’s a “buzz” in the air regarding coming to Te Awamutu.
“We aim to bring golf to as many new people as possible. So, having the open in a different part of New Zealand will be brilliant.”
Statistics New Zealand data shows more than a million people in New Zealand – about a quarter of the population – identify with having a disability, and Mick undertakes regular public speaking engagements aimed at positively motivating those who hear him.
“It’s a platform I’ve been gifted which, through using it well, I can hopefully inspire others.”
He said many of the able-bodied golfers entered might be surprised just how good some of the “awe inspiring” disability golfers they’ll play alongside are.
The 2023 Disability Golf New Zealand Open is held in Te Awamutu from November 13-14 with a have a go day on November 12.
Disability golf is not an official Paralympic sport but there are growing calls from around the world for the sport to be recognised as one.