European Disabled Golf Association
History of EDGA
From the early nineties, disabled golf has developed rapidly in quite a number of European countries. The interpretation of the word "disabled", was different in each country, as was the experience of organising tournaments. Gaining support from outside sources was still in its infancy. Each country decided who was allowed to play in their tournaments. Players ranged from wheelchair players, amputees and blind players to players with diabetes, deafness and "Les Autres".
Stroke play and Stableford formats were used, based on either physical disabilities or playing handicap categories. Often the formats and categories were mixed. Players with divergent disabilities, common and uncommon, appeared in tournaments and championships around Europe. Players grumbled, and their displeasure could be seen at prize giving ceremonies as a winner with a vague disability prevailed.
Socialising elements, curiosity and playing capabilities were the binding factors of success during this time. However, the cry for equal standards of tournaments and objective controlled definitions of impairments were heard more frequently. In 1998, an international working group was formed to prepare the starting points for a co-ordinated body, this included from the Netherlands (Pieter van Duijn), Sweden (Kalle Roos) and Germany (Klaus Ahrens).
The Swedish Open for disabled players at Halmstad Golfklubb, Tylösand, in the summer of 1998, was a significant time. Swedish Orthopaedic Surgeon Peter Köhler presented his "Definitions of impairments" as a long awaited answer for equal rules regarding the minimum physical disabilities for entering tournaments. This document was accepted as being just and fair and became the standard for organisers of tournaments to adopt for a fair competition.
To ensure long-term continuity, the working group prepared the founding of an international identity. As a result of this the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) was founded in Wiesbaden, March 2000, by organisations from 6 nations; the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy, France and Iceland.
The association works on an international scale, seeking expansion worldwide. EDGA was re-registered in the Netherlands during December 2008 and has operated under Dutch Law ever since.
Since those early days, the association was enlarged to 15 nations in 2008. EDGA continuously spread the word that people with disabilities can play the game of golf in conformity with the "Rules of Golf" and the “A Modification of the "Rules of Golf for Golfers with Disabilities”. These two rule books, approved by R&A Rules Limited and The United States Golf Association, govern the playing of the game. In modifying the Rules of Golf for Golfers with disabilities, the desired result should allow a golfer with disability to play equitably with an able-bodied individual or a golfer with another type of disability. Early in 2008, EDGA sought the co-operation of the PGAs of Europe, nowadays working worldwide in 38 countries, to create an advanced course for Professionals to teach people with disabilities. With the support of the Ryder Cup European Development Trust, the Netherlands Golf Federation and the PGA of Holland, a three days course started in the Netherlands in autumn 2009 with 57 professionals. Since then this course, recently translated into English, is integrated as a separate module in the education programme for teaching professionals in the Netherlands.
In November 2008, the International Golf Federation (IGF) formally presented their “Case for Golf’s inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games”. The EDGA Executive Committee was alerted to these activities, and started to consider the possibility of Golf as a Paralympic Sport? The search for more information caused some confusion as no organisation within the disabled golf community could be located who were familiar with this question. President Roberto Caja and Secretary Pieter van Duijn arranged a meeting with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in Bonn, Germany, early April 2009. During this meeting, EDGA learned that IPC have their own judgement and procedure to include new sports, starting seven years prior to the Games. It appeared that EDGA was the first and only organisation that knocked at the IPC door in time to receive the IPC "Declaration of Intent", to apply for the inclusion of a new sport for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. EDGA’s "Declaration of Intent" was approved by the IPC Governing Board and was followed by the 2016 Paralympic Sports Programme application package in mid-April 2010. This application package is a strict directory for preparing a bid book within three months. A nerve-racking period followed in which it was necessary to collect the required information from at least 24 countries on three continents. We managed to complete the bid book “Down the Fairway to Rio” in time, thanks to a close cooperation with the International Golf Federation, being the formal applicant, and The R&A. In December 2010 the IPC confirmed that golf was not accepted as a new sport in the 2016 Paralympic Sports Programme.
In August 2009 the EDGA Executive Committee spoke to officers of the PGA European Tour about combined efforts to develop the game of golf for people with disabilities. A second meeting was arranged in October 2009 in Hamburg, Germany, during the Annual Meeting of the European Golf Association (EGA). EDGA’s President Roberto Caja and Secretary Pieter van Duijn were invited by the EGA to attend and to present EDGA’s view on golf for people with disabilities. EDGA was convinced, through those pioneering years, that organisations working for golf for people with disabilities must combine forces to cooperate with the governing body in golf in their countries. This has also been a vital step forward in our approach towards the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Golf Federation (IGF). The IGF heard our efforts to investigate the possibility to function also as the worldwide federation for disabled golf. In 2010 inquisitive meetings were arranged with leading organisations working for disabled golf in the USA, Canada, Japan and Australia.
Between 1-3-2010 and 28-2-2011 EDGA took part in the project “All for Sport for All”: Perspectives of Sport for People with a disability in Europe, involving 17 organisations from 12 European countries. This was a joint one year project led by the European Observatoire of Sport & Employment (EOSE) and the European Paralympic Committee, funded by the European Commission. Our goal to participate was to promote golf as a unique sport for people with disabilities to build self-confidence, motivation and learning skills through sport and to lead more independent lives.
EDGA developed well in 2010. For the first time, a team of Japanese players played the French championship. Meetings took place with the Board of the Japanese Disabled Golf Association, to discuss their participation in the Swedish Invitational. This is a leading tournament for the best players from around the world, under the auspice of the Swedish Golf Federation. In September, we met with representatives of the Norwegian Golf Federation and the organisers of the first Norwegian Disabled Open. During the European Championship in Austria in October 2010, we met with the Czech Disabled Golf Association to discuss details for their first Czech Disabled Golf Tournament.
We officially received confirmation on 10th December 2010 that the Board of International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had chosen canoe and triathlon as new sports for the 2016 Paralympic Games. At that time and for those who had been working very hard for Paralympic golf, this was a very disappointing moment. Now, on reflection, the reality prevails that for a number of reasons, disabled golf was not ready for the Paralympic programme. Focusing on the 2020 or 2024 Paralympic games seems to be a more realistic option. One of the major issues is the new classification system introduced by the IPC Medical & Scientific Committee. These new criterias are very difficult to fulfil and a real challenge for experts in various fields of the game of golf and medical research. Members of the EDGA Medical Committee and other experts formed the EDGA Paralympic Task Force to start working on this new classification system.
In 2011, the EDGA Executive Committee initiated a working group to prepare a draft for a new Constitution. This was deemed necessary as over the years constitutional articles and paragraphs more relating to “rules & regulations” were mentioned in the same document. The final draft was accepted unanimously at the extraordinary General Assembly in December 2011.
Definitions of Impairments
In August 2011, just before the first Malmö Team World Championship (Sweden), representatives of 15 nations attended the Malmö World Handigolf Conference, organised under the responsibility of EDGA. Delegates from Japan and Australia experienced presentations from the International Golf Federation, PGAs of Europe, PGA European Tour and EGA Handicapping and Course Rating Committee. Each gave a clear picture of their expertise and commitment towards golf for the disabled. It was decided that the existing EDGA Definitions of Impairments, dealing with eligibility to play in EDGA tournaments and championships, needed to be adjusted in some areas. The final version of the adjusted Definitions were presented and ratified by the General Assembly in December 2011.
In November 2011 the EDGA Secretary visited Headley Court, a military rehabilitation centre in Epsom, Surrey, U.K., where golf was introduced successfully as part of a rehabilitation programme. In the Netherlands, a training programme was set-up for sport instructors working in rehabilitation centres to offer golf as one of the sporting options from which to choose during rehabilitation. The Netherlands Golf Federation provide the required materials for indoor training while rehabilitation centres cooperate with certified golf professionals and golf clubs in the area that facilitate further outdoor education and training.
Close cooperation between EDGA and the International Golf Federation (IGF) resulted in the development of three different IGF surveys. These surveys were sent in the Spring of 2012 to 131 IGF national members worldwide, 64 associations for disabled golfers and 317 disabled golfers across the world. The focus of these IGF surveys was to determine people’s perception to various matters related to the inclusion of golfers with disabilities within the game of golf and identify the main issues inherent to it.
The review of these surveys is intended to help assess a potential re-submission to the Paralympic programme for 2020 or, more likely, 2024. Analysis in August 2012 revealed from a global perspective that there is a general misunderstanding from some (private) organisations claiming to represent golfers with disability in their country. Their role should be more than organising a few tournaments, meaning that they need to inform and educate those who deliver the sport as well and to seek cooperation with their national governing body. Golfers with disability have a great contribution to make to club life and the sport as a whole from both a sporting and social perspective!
For many years, EDGA is represented in a group of organisations under the wings of the Netherlands Golf Federation. This groups purpose is to bring together the most important parties in golf in the Netherlands, to increase the participation of golfers with disability in regular competitions and to further integrate with club life. Educational programmes for golf professionals and sports instructors at rehabilitation centres resulted in mutual interest and cooperation and support of golf club management. Players with an EDGA Medical Pass are allowed the use of a golf cart in official competitions of the Netherlands Golf Federation. This is an important step forward for integration as meant in the “A Modification of the Rules of Golf for Golfers with Disabilities” as approved by The R&A/USGA.
Although the EDGA Tour counts quite a number of professionally lead tournaments for golfers with disability all over Europe, we feel that we in EDGA should aim to take our tournaments to the next level of organisation. The EDGA Executive Committee have considered the position of the association in to-day’s ever-changing landscape. After a period of contemplation, discussion and reflection we proposed to the membership, “EDGA’s Vision for 2014 and beyond” in which the following important issues are dealt with:
Voorhout, 1st November 2013
Pieter van Duijn, Vice-President