Friday, 1 July 2011
The burgeoning international appeal of the Disabled British Open (DBO) golf championships has seen the registration of the tournament’s first US player.
Jason Faircloth, from Clinton, North Carolina, has cerebral palsy, and after 20 years of playing maintains a respectable golf handicap of 17.
Faircloth will become the first American to play in the annual tournament when he tees off in the third DBO at East Sussex National Golf Resort & Spa (ESN) on August 20-21, although last year’s field did feature golfers from as far afield as South Africa, Pakistan, Spain, Ireland and Germany.
For 32-year-old Faircloth, however, it is not just a golf event – it’s also a means of highlighting the ability and potential of his contemporaries to an international audience, particularly those across the Atlantic.
Faircloth, who works part-time for an internet gaming company, said: “We don’t have anything like the DBO in the US so I hope to learn a lot from it and who knows, maybe start something big like this over in the US.
“I thank the British Government for getting involved and helping to make this tournament meaningful. It is my hope that our country will take notice in what other countries are doing for the disabled.
“I will share my knowledge to help stand up for people with disabilities. It means a lot to me to try to help people and now I hope to use this opportunity as a platform so I can reach more people and help people with disabilities obtain jobs.”
But just because he intends using the event as a showcase doesn’t mean he won’t be at his competitive best – Faircloth is flying to the UK, for his first visit, with the intention of winning the event.
“I hate to lose,” he added. “I am a competitor. I know that this is a stiff competition and I have never played in this big a tournament before so I’m not sure what to expect. But I hope to play decently enough to have an opportunity to win at the end. I want to see where my game stacks up.
“My CP really doesn’t affect my golf game; I don’t hit it far, and that does play a role in my scores. I have to hit it solid every time in order to compete. I love to get out and compete with my friends. We play for money so it makes it interesting.
“They let me play from the gold tees, just because they are so much better then me. I am not scared to tee it up with the big boys, so to speak. It’s going to be interesting. I know nerves will play a big part starting out, but I will quote what Tiger said early in his career when he was asked about his nerves. He said ‘if you aren’t nervous at the start of a tournament then it must not mean much to you’.”
Faircloth’s visit to ESN will be the first time he has left the USA and he plans to fulfil another sporting ambition while he’s in Europe.
“I'm looking forward to visiting England and the surrounding areas. I was a pretty big tennis fan and played tennis when I was younger, so I may try to visit the All England Club at Wimbledon.”
The DBO was launched in 2009 and has become such a popular and socially influential event that the UK Government has thrown its support behind it.
Both the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport, Jeremy Hunt MP, and the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller MP, have praised it for its inclusivity and legacy.
Hunt said: “The Disabled British Open golf championship is a fantastic example of how Britain can stage a world-class event for disabled athletes competing at the highest level. As a nation we should be very proud of the awareness this event has created, and the legacy of opportunities within sport for disabled people.”
And his parliamentary colleague added: “To hear that the Disabled British Open golf championships has encouraged disabled people to start playing golf for the first time is a wonderful achievement – and testament to the spirit of the competitors and will of the organisers.”
The event is delivered through Tourism South East, and is part of Accentuate, a transformational programme of 15 projects, inspired by the Paralympic movement, which seeks to change perceptions and offer opportunities to showcase the talents of deaf and disabled people. Accentuate is funded by Legacy Trust UK, creating a lasting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games across the UK, SEEDA and the regional cultural agencies. Screen South is the home of Accentuate.
Sue Saville, managing director of Tourism South East, said “The DBO is growing from strength to strength and now with our first US competitor onboard, it is quickly becoming a global event. We are proud to have been instrumental in the conception of the DBO and by hosting it in the south-east, it will show the world that the south-east is a professional destination for hosting sporting events.”
Once again, spectators will be afforded free entry to the event and will be able to benefit from free coaching offered by qualified Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) pros.
There will also be a huge army of volunteers required. Last year, after the call went from the organisers for volunteers to act as marshals, ball-spotters, buggy drivers and caddies, the roles were filled within weeks.
The 2011 Disabled British Open and Junior Disabled British Open take place on August 19-21.
A range of bespoke sponsorship and partnership packages for both events can be made available including title and headline sponsorship. For further information contact championship organiser Andy Barwell on 07961 315520 or visit www.disabledbritishopen.org.