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28 Nov - 1 Dec, 2024

01 Dec 2022 | Australian Open | All Abilities |

International talents eyeing victory at the Australian All Abilities Championship

by Australian Golf Media

Kurtis Barkley on the practice range ahead of the Australian All Abilities Championship.
Kurtis Barkley on the practice range ahead of the Australian All Abilities Championship.

By Alexander Dabb

The Australian All Abilities Championship returns for the first time since 2019 at the ISPS HANDA Australian Open this week, with possibly the strongest field ever assembled for the event teeing off from Victoria Golf Club on Friday.

Sweden’s Johan Kammerstad - victorious in both previous editions of the event in 2018 and 2019 - heads to the Sandbelt with a strong chance of claiming a hat-trick, but knows that a third consecutive win won’t come easily.

“I think all guys can win if they have a good week. It’s a strong field,” said the world number nine.

“It's tough, it's really tough. But if I play good I have a I might have a shot at it. So hopefully I can perform and be there on Sunday having a chance at it.”

To be holding the trophy on Sunday afternoon, Kammerstad, who endures a 20-centimetre difference in leg length due to being born without some bones in his right leg, will have to overcome Kipp Popert, the young Brit who lit up the G4D (Golf for the Disabled) Tour on his way to the world No. 1 ranking.

With four wins from seven events on the G4D Tour, and top five finishes in each of the remaining three events, Popert was relaxed in his approach to the week.

“I'm here to win,” said Popert, who has been diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy called Spastic diplegia which affects the lower half of his body.

“I like being in Australia, I like coming to Melbourne - I’ve got some good friends here.

“I enjoy the Tim-Tams,” he said with a laugh.

Runner-up in 2019, Canada’s Kurtis Barkley, is here to go one better than his previous outing at The Australian, where he lost in a play-off to Kammerstad, but is also just looking forward to displaying his talent in front of the crowds.

“Well, yeah, we all show up here to win. I definitely took second with pride last time, I would definitely take second with pride this week.

“We're all here to win. We're all here to showcase golfers with disabilities - to come out on top would be unreal.

“Everywhere is a stepping stone, and here to play inside the ropes with the pros on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday is, in my eyes, pretty unbelievable that we're getting the chance to show our talents as golfers in front of such a big stage.”

Mette Wegge Lynggaard, the only woman in the field this year, has a similar sentiment to Barkley about sharing the big stage, and hopefully providing inspiration for other people with a disability to take up golf.

“Many people don't know they have the opportunity to play golf with a disability, or if they had been normal before they could still be playing if they had some kind of accident or stroke or something like that.

“It's important to be here to show our disabilities - we are 12 players with all kinds of disabilities - so anything can be done.”

The Dane, diagnosed with cerebral palsy which affects the left side of her body, is excited to be gracing the sandbelt for the first time, and hopes to see more golfers make their Australian debut in the future.

“It's my first tournament (in Australia) and I'm glad to be invited here as the only lady, but I think for the next season or the years to come (there) will be a bigger field of players.”

While Wegge Lynggaard is glad to be playing this week, there is no doubting where she plans to be on the leader board come Sunday.

“We all are here for winning, so that's the mindset!”

The AAAC field of 12 includes four Australians and a bunch of the best players in the world. The first tee-offs are from 1.55pm on Friday, with Spain’s Juan Postigo, Popert and Australian Stephen Prior hitting off. The tournament is over 54 holes and all played at Victoria Golf Club.

DRAW

1.55 (1st tee) Juan Postigo (Spain), Kipp Popert (England), Stephen Prior (Aust)

2.06 (1st tee) Brendan Lawlor (Ireland), Mette Wegge Lynggaard (Denmark), Geoff Nicholas (Aust)

1.55 (10th tee) Johan Kammerstad (Sweden), Mike Brown (England), Cameron Pollard (Aust)

2.06 (10th tee) Tommaso Perrino (Italy), Kurtis Barkley (Canada), Mike Rolls (Aust)

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