26 Apr 2023 | All Abilities |

Gala day is a huge success

by Australian Golf Media

Special School gala day image
Students lapped up the fun at the Golf Australia Gala Day. Photo: Monica Marchesani

Golf Australia’s delivered its annual Gala Day for Special Schools in April which again proved to be a major hit for participants, teachers, and coaches alike.

Over 110 participants from specials schools via 12 special schools across southern Victoria took part in the fun and festivities at Centenary Park Golf Course in Frankston North in southern Melbourne.

Participants were divided into two groups on the day: one group rotating through putting, chipping, and driving range activities, while the other played 9-holes on the course, in an ambrose format.

Centenary Park’s Scott McDermott, a 10-year PGA Professional and All-Abilities accredited coach, oversaw the coaching on the day and was thrilled to see everyone having a go.

“As someone who is passionate about making golf a sport for all it was brilliant to see so many students attend the Gala event and participate in a range of activities,” McDermott said.

“Golf is one of the most inclusive sports in the world with small, if any, changes required to accommodate a large spectrum of capabilities through disabilities.

“The most important thing was to have fun, but we saw students build their basic skills as they learnt and took instructions across the different stations.

“It was also fantastic to have Chris Alves and Alex Gridley, two medial winning Special Olympic athletes, assist me with coaching at the event – seeing these guys in action certainly helps others with a disability see what is possible and why this is the best sport in the world.”

The annual Gala Day represents the first step in golf’s pathway for all-abilities participation which scales through participation in a MyGolf All-Abilities program, club-level participation, state-level, national-level and international-level participation.

Christian Hamilton, Golf Australia’s Senior Manager – Programs & Inclusion, was thrilled with the turnout amongst participants and highlighted how it kickstarts interest in golf programs at special schools.

“Our Gala Day’s aim is to ultimately get more kids trying/playing golf, changing the perception of the game,” said Hamilton.

“Events like this are often a participant’s first golfing experience or touchpoint so it plays a crucial role in breaking down barriers as they release how safe, easy, and accessible golf can be.

“More than ever, we want to highlight our game is inclusive by design. Often very little modification is required to equipment, facilities, or a course to enable people with a disability to play golf.

“We now have over 200 PGA All-Abilities accredited coaches nationwide, like Scott, supported by community instructors such as Alex and Chris."

The Victorian Government supported the opportunity for Golf Australia to expand Gala Events and provide fantastic employment opportunities for people with disability through Community Instructor All-Abilities accreditation.

The Special Olympics also importantly provides golf participants opportunities to engage with programs at schools and affiliate clubs. The ‘Inclusive Sport in Schools’ program provides funding to schools to run an 8-week MyGolf programs each term with All-Abilities coaches. From here, participants have the option to transition to Special Olympics Affiliate clubs to continue their golfing journey.

Noting the pathways aren’t for everyone, the importance of young people with an intellectual disability having healthy relationships with sport is recognized - notably via an active lifestyle connected to the local community.

Golf has the power to aid this through a range of physical and social benefits regardless of continuing through the pathway or playing just for fun.

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