A champion of blind golfers who has been on a 20-year crusade to get more of them playing the game is in line for a prestigious coaching award. Anders Mankert, the head PGA Professional at Cosby Golf Club, has been nominated in the disabled coaching category for the UKCC National Coaching Awards.
The Swede has made it a personal mission to encourage more visually impaired golfers to play golf – giving free coaching to any blind golfer and also championing their cause in the local media to find guides to help them play.
Mankert hosts regular day clinics at his Leicestershire club for the England & Wales Blind Golf Association and golfers travel from across the UK to attend. But it’s not just coaching – Mankert also actively engages local media to unearth playing guides which are vital to accompany blind golfers.
“Without guides they can’t play, it’s as simple as that,” said Mankert who has recently been awarded PGA Advanced Fellow Professional status. “I had one lad in Stevenage who was unable to get a guide so he could not play. He tried with the local press but just had no response.
“It was the Stevenage Comet, and I rang them up and said ‘look you can potentially change this guy’s life. He is very depressed, he feels his life is over and you are in a position to get someone to be his guide. They ended up running a story and he had 17 replies of people offering to guide him. One of them went on to become a close friend.
“The golfer in question, Billy MacAllister has subsequently travelled to compete in Australia and the World Golf Championships in Japan and is the British No.1 blind and World No. 4 blind golfer. He’d never played golf before. He lives in Brighton and still comes to me for coaching – which is an eight-hour round trip.”
Mankert has coaching in the region of 80 such golfers over 20 years but admits it was more by luck than design that he first started coaching them.
‘‘A group of blind and visually impaired people were on a range having a go, they have given the chance by a local help group or something. They came over a few weeks and I kept watching them and thought ‘I can help these guys’.
“I said look, if I can help you in any way I would be chuffed to do that. A few took up my offer and 20 years later I still coach a couple of them.”
Despite a busy schedule as a club pro with coaching, custom-fitting and the day to day managing of his club, Mankert remains committed to helping blind golfers. “I don’t charge them anything for coaching and that offer stands for any blind or visually impaired golfers.”
Mankert’s has already been made an Honorary Life Member of the England & Wales Blind Association and now his efforts are being recognised by the UKCC at their national awards at Holiday Inn, Wembley on November 29.