Scottish golf course becomes first in the country to offer specially designed wheelchair free to disabled golfers

Blackwood tenant Peter McWilliams and myself were privileged to be invited to the official launch of the Paragolfer at Mearns Castle Golf Academy last week. The public golf course in Newton Mearns lies just south of Glasgow, and is home to two (very soon three) specially designed wheelchairs that enable people who use wheelchairs to play golf.

 

Strongly built to safely access the green, the Paragolfer mechanically raises the user from a sitting to standing position enabling them to give it their best swing. The evening was organised by Paragolf Scotland together with the Social Care Ideas Factory and with the guest of honour – Anthony Netto - flying in from San Diego to lead the demonstrations.

 

“…I just thought - ‘I don’t want to play golf sitting down anymore’…” – Anthony Netto

 

Anthony Netto is an international Paragolfer who is passionate about sport and helping people who have disabilities participate in sport. Wounded in action during the First Gulf War in 1991, he was later badly injured in a traffic collision that resulted in him needing a wheelchair. Sports, and particularly golfing, helped him recover his confidence following his loss of mobility and since then Anthony has worked tirelessly to promote Paragolf. Working closely with veterans and civilians, he has helped others rediscover that lost confidence through the joy of sport and competition. He is the ex-trainer of the German Disabled Golf Team and acts as a consultant for disabled golfers worldwide.

Standing upright for the first time in 25 years!

Back to last week, after a brief demonstration of the Paragolfer, some of the guests who use wheelchairs got the opportunity to try it out themselves. And Peter made it clear he had not come just as a spectator.

 

Making his way onto the green enthusiastically, he was one of the first to transfer into the Paragolfer and with some pointers from Anthony he was smacking golf balls down the fairway in no time. An experience he enjoyed hugely and would love to repeat.

 

Others joined in and by the end of the evening several guests who are wheelchair users had tried the Paragolfer and golf, many for the first time ever. It got emotional at times as one bemused guest told us he was standing upright for the first time in decades.

 

We have to give kudos to Gary Smith too, who played golf for the first time ever and proved to be a natural, to the hilarity and outrage of his friends.

Stand Up and Play

 

Anthony Netto directly inspired the design and prototyping of the Paragolfer wheelchair and tested it throughout its development by Ottobock. One of the early problems they had to address was the instability of the early prototypes. “I would end up flat on my face doing push ups with this great bit piece of machinery on my back” Anthony jokes remembering early trials.

 

We all gasped a little as Anthony demonstrated the stability of the final concept, throwing his entire body weight down a slope whilst strapped in upright in the Paragolfer. It barely budged.

 

Anthony is also the man behind the Stand up and Play Foundation, a U.S.A based organisation that was formed “[…] to help wheelchair users and other people with impaired mobility have the opportunity to stand up and participate in sporting, artistic and other daily events”.

 

If you would like to visit Mearns Castle Golf Academy and try out the Paragolfer your best bet is to visit their website for contact details and get in touch to inquire. The Paragolfers are very popular so don’t assume they will be available if you haven’t booked. 

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