First Swingers savour SA Open start

VinceRaylenChadCharles_GNGUTSHWANE, 1 May 2016 – The arrival of well-known American pair Chad Pfeifer and Vince Biser at Zwartkop Country Club on Sunday morning sent a ripple of excitement through this year’s participants of the Nedbank SA Disabled Open.

Raylen de Wee from Lavender Hill and Carnavon’s Charles Williams caught a quick photo with the Yanks before setting off at a brisk pace to catch up with the rest of the First Swing Programmers for a practice round ahead of Monday’s first round.

Pfeifer and Biser’s pedigree was not lost on Williams and De Wee.

Along with Canadian Josh Williams, Juan Postigo from Spain, Englishman Martin Williams, Dutch player Tineke Loogman and celebrated leg-amputee Manual de los Santos they represent a very strong international challenge at the South African Disabled Golf Association’s flagship event.

“The chance to watch the best in the world go to work this week is a huge opportunity for all of us from the First Swing Programme to learn and learn,” said De Wee, who cut his handicap from 27 to 20 since January.

The grade 10 learner arrived at this year’s championship on the back of a runner-up finish in the King David Mowbray Club Championship last week and he is gunning for back-to-back victories in the Arm-Amputee ISP 19-36 Handicap Division.

“I am keeping my eye on Biser,” said the arm-amputee. “He won the North American One Arm Championship five times in a row from 2009 to 2014. This time next year, I want to be competing in the Medal Division, so I’m going to watch him and memorise his actions to see what I learn to improve even more.”

Williams is heading to Denmark in July as a member of South Africa’s 10-man team that will compete against 17 countries in the 11th World Deaf Golf Championshipat the Royal Golf Club in Copenhagen.

The 22-year-old De La Bat College graduateis the first member of the First Swing Programme to earn national colours and says he is feeling the pressure.

“I didn’t play well in last year’s championship, but my game has improved a lot,” he said. “This is a very important week for my preparation for Denmark. I am shooting for victory this week to show my team-mates that I’m the right man for the job.

“I would love to win the SA Deaf Championship and a good performance will give me a lot of confidence. It’s also important to do well to show the kids that I help coach at De La Bat, Noluthando and the Dominican Schools that they should also shoot for the stars.

“Although we have our own competition, it will be pretty cool if I can beat the scores of some of the international players, too. Won’t that be something to tell the FSP kids at home.”

Pfeifer, a two-time National Amputee Championship winner, has rubbed shoulders with PGA Tour pros, while Williams – the 2014 Nedbank SA Disabled Open champion – is a two time US Amputee Championship winner and three-time Canadian Amputee champion.

Postigo and Loogman own an assortment of Amputee Open titles in Europe, while De los Santos from the Dominican Republic spent the last three months campaigning against the pros on the Algarve Tour in Portugal in preparation for his debut in the Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open.

Williams and De Wee believe the foreign onslaught pose a real threat to defending champion Daniel Slabbert and two-time world one-arm champion Reinard Schuhknecht.

“These guys play all over the place and they are really good,” Williams said. “I think the home course advantage will help Daniel and Reinard, but once the internationals get used to the altitude and over the jet-lag, it’s going get very tough for our guys.”

PHOTO – American arm-amputee Vince Biser, arm-amputee Raylen de Wee, American leg-amputee Chad Pfeifer and deaf competitor Charles Williams at the 2016 Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open; credit SADGA.