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  • Alistair Tait

80 Stories Of Struggle And Resilience

Lachlan Wood thought he might never walk again. Kipp Popert (pictured) spent much of his childhood wondering if he’d ever be able to put one foot in front of the other without falling down.

This week both are playing in The G4D Open over the delightful Duchess Course at Woburn Golf Club. They are just two of 80 stories of comeback, immense struggle and resilience.

Aged 15, Wood was sitting in the passenger seat of a car when it crashed into a pole at high speed and rolled over several times. The Australian sustained 12 broken bones in his left leg, many of the bones shattered.

He underwent over 30 operations and spent a year in a wheelchair and another on crutches. Two of his back muscles were removed and grafted on to his leg. He had to learn how to walk again on a leg that was four centimetres shorter than his right, and now a quarter of the size. He doubted if he’d ever play golf again.

Popert, a member of Wildernesse and Royal Cinque Ports Golf Clubs in Kent, was born with a form of Cerebral Palsy called Spastic Diplegia. He spent most of his teenage years undergoing surgery and treatment on his legs and feet. Thankfully, both his parents, Richard and Lindsey, are doctors. They were able to get him treatment from specialists in treating Cerebral Palsy.

Both men have overcome incredible hardship chasing their childhood dreams of playing golf at the highest level. Popert is currently the number one ranked player on the World Ranking for Golfers with a Disability. Wood is seventh.

Wood lives in Hervey Bay in Queensland, Australia. The 32 year old has sold his house to finance the trip to the UK to play in the G4D Open.

“It’s only in the last few years I’ve really accepted I’ve got a disability, and it’s not getting any better,” Wood said. "Previously I was sort of in denial, fighting it, thinking I’d get better. I’ve realised I’ve got to manage what I’ve got, enjoy what I’ve got because I don’t know what the future holds. I definitely didn’t think it I’d have the opportunity to play in a tournament like the G4D Open.”

Popert plays on the G4D Tour (Golf For the Disabled) which is supported by the R&A and DP World Tour, and supported by the European Disabled Golf Association, competing on courses that feature on the DP World Tour.

“It would be a big deal to win the inaugural G4D Open,” the 24-year-old Englishman admits. “Only one person is ever going to win the first one, and if I put my name on that trophy then that will be incredible. It will be a memory I will treasure forever.”

Aside from competing for personal glory, both realise this week’s inaugural tournament means so much more.

“One of my motivating factors is to bring this more mainstream,” Popert said. “There was never a disability golfer for me to look up to and so it’s great that we’ve now got players to inspire people with disability through tournaments, through the world ranking and we’ve got players like myself, Brendon Lawlor of Ireland, Juan Postigo from Spain, Chris Biggins from America, Kurtis Barkley from Canada and the list goes on. The international contingent is fantastic so it’s going truly global.
“I’m determined to do all I can do to make it easier for people with disability to play golf, and to play to a decent level. I hope people watching the G4D Open come away thinking that anyone can play golf. It doesn’t matter what your disability is or where you’re from”

Wood shares that goal.

“This tournament will highlight to people who may have a disability or been diagnosed with something that’s changed their lives that there’s something out there for them.”

Perhaps more importantly, those competing at Woburn are models all golfers would do well to follow.

“Every single person in the field will have gone through similar ordeals (to mine),” Wood said. “You’ve got the most resilient field of golfers competing against each other. The stories at Woburn will be unique. You could write 80 different books on 80 different lives and they would all be top-selling books detailing heroic stories of comeback, immense struggle and resilience.”

Makes you wonder why so many of us sometimes get depressed at our inability to play this royal and ancient game, doesn’t it?

#JustSaying: “The World Health Organization states that one in six people has a disability and so we want to show that golf is open to everyone regardless of ability.” Martin Slumbers, R&A Chief Executive

Note: I interviewed Popert and Wood for stories that appeared on the R&A website.

Photograph courtesy of the R&A

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