20 Aug 2021 | All Abilities |

Brendan's burning ambition

by Dane Heverin

The beeping of an alarm and clock that reads ‘5:30 AM’ has most weary-eyed people reaching for the snooze button, but not Brendan Borger.

He is likely to have been waiting in anticipation for the alarm to go off.

To him, the loud, electronic sound that fills most people with dread brings joy and excitement.

That sound means it is time for golf.

Borger has been playing the game for 16 years and is now on the verge of representing Australia internationally.

“If I get my handicap down to 17, I can represent All Abilities golf overseas,” he said with a beaming smile.  

Borger has autism and he plays in the weekly club competitions at Wynnum Golf Club in Brisbane’s Bayside.

He also does weekly sessions with PGA All Abilities coach Lee Harrington at the Golf School at Palm Meadows Golf Course in the Gold Coast suburb of Carrara. 

He must take two different trains to get there and one-way it takes more than an hour.

Regardless, with his golf bag in tow, Borger’s mother drops him off at the train station at around 6.55am and Harrington picks him up at the other end.

It’s an awkward exercise to lug a golf bag up and down stairs to change platforms, but the effort is worth it.

“I love working with Lee each week at the golf school and we have a lot of fun,” he said.

The feeling is mutual.

“It’s so much fun working with him,” Harrington said. 

“We obviously want to keep him striving to compete and he’s driven.

“Our goal with Brendan is to keep that dream alive for him. To provide him opportunities each week that will make him a better golfer.”

Their work together is also about more than shots played on a golf course.

“Not only has his golf improved as a person he’s improved,” Kevin Borger, Brendan’s father, said.

“He’s met more people, and interacts with people better. 

“He’s joined a golf club - all the benefits out of golf have been tremendous for Brendan.”

Borger’s growth on and off the course is a fantastic endorsement for the Special Olympics and Golf Australia programs.

“Brendan Borger is a great example of that pathway at work,” Christian Hamilton, Golf Australia’s senior manager - programs & inclusion, said.

“Originally an international swimmer with the Special Olympics, Brendan tried his hand at Golf through the Special Olympics and has never looked back. 

“Brendan has now turned his focus to Golf Australia World Ranking Events and is determined to improve his ranking, opening the door to representative golf and other premier ranking events.”

Borger may have the chance to represent Queensland at the Special Olympics National Games in Launceston next year and Australia at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin in 2023.

Harrington is set on seeing him in green and gold.

“Over the next twelve months, we’ve put a bit of a plan in place,” she said. 

“We’ll work with each athlete and work on their goals and our job is to try and get them there.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton is hopeful that Borger’s journey will inspire other clubs and facilities to get involved as affiliate members of Special Olympics Australia.

“We recognise the importance of the PGA All Abilities coach and the facility in creating a warm and inclusive environment,” Hamilton said.

“Lee Harrington and the team at The Golf School at Palm Meadows Driving Range are an affiliate member of Special Olympics Australia and offer a fantastic program supporting a number of Special Olympics athletes.

“The Special Olympics program offers existing athletes and newcomers with intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder the chance to get involved in both Special Olympics events and Golf Australia’s Inclusive Championships.”

For clubs wanting to get involved and for more information regarding affiliate membership of Special Olympics Australia, visit https://www.specialolympics.com.au/affiliate

For people with disability wanting to learn more about golf, visit www.golf.org.au/allabilities

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