Deaf golf will come into the spotlight this week when the Brabazon Trophy gets underway at Seaton Carew in County Durham.
The competitors at the event – one of the Majors of amateur golf – include 18-year-old Paul Waring of Felixstowe Ferry in Suffolk, who has been profoundly deaf from birth.
The host club also includes a group of deaf golfers among its members and its plans for a new practice area will include facilities for deaf golfers and those with other disabilities. Seaton Carew treasurer Jim Cockburn remarked: “Everyone and anyone is welcome here, we include everyone.”
Paul is a scratch golfer who secured his first appearance in the Brabazon – the English men’s open stroke play – with a two under par score and a share of second place in the Southern Qualifier.
This week’s championship will be just the beginning of a high-profile month for Paul, who will go on to represent England Deaf Golf in the World Deaf Championships in Michigan, USA, from July 12-18.
He is already the European Deaf Champion and his schedule reflects his ambition: “to be a successful amateur and then to play on the European Tour.”
Paul’s route to the top of the game puts an extra emphasis on communication. He explains the issues created by being deaf: “It makes learning more difficult as communication with your coach has to be different, for them and you. And, if you can’t hear the difference in a good and bad strike, or how a bunker shot should sound, you have to rely on the feel of the shot.”
That means lots of practice and a good relationship with the coach: “Both my previous coach, Kevin Lovelock, and my current coach Graham Walker (the England Golf men’s coach), have been brilliant with me,” said Paul.
There’s also the issue of communicating with playing partners. Paul uses a combination of lip reading, signing if appropriate, and gestures.
He encourages other deaf people to play golf, remarking: “Why not? It’s great fun and you get to meet lots of new people.”
Paul started playing golf when he was 12, encouraged by his father, and has represented Suffolk at every level from U14 upwards. He’s been a regular at England Golf boys’ events and at other prestigious junior competitions and this year, is playing more men’s tournaments.
He has an impressive record in deaf golf. As well as his European individual title, he helped England win the team event in Finland and, also last year, he won the England Deaf Golf Open, the Spring and Autumn Tournaments and the Order of Merit.
Meanwhile, Paul’s focus is on the Brabazon, which starts on Wednesday and continues until Saturday. “I’m very much looking forward to it, I want to play in the best tournaments I can, and this is one of the best.”