I’m sitting here writing this with the rain pouring down, feeling very virtuous because I went for a walk quite early this morning and very frustrated because there’s golf – proper professional golf, with some famous players on the starting sheet – at The Belfry, just down the road.  It’s not the rain keeping me away, of course but COVID-19 and the restrictions that prevent any spectators from attending tournaments.  Players, caddies, officials and broadcasters at the ISPS HANDA UK Championship will be in their bubble, the sine qua non of tournaments going ahead.

Danny Willett, beaming in practice with his wife Nicole, who’s making her caddying debut at The Belfry. The former Masters champion is making his competitive debut at the venue [European Tour]

I switched on the telly when I came back from my walk but there was no sign of anything from The Belfry, so I had to find something else to do and decided I might as well start writing the blog unusually early, i.e. before midnight.  Whether it’ll be finished before midnight is another matter altogether….

At least working at a computer is an inside occupation and there’s something vaguely comforting about the rain bouncing off a roof that seems to be doing its job with no sign of any leaks.  There’s nothing remotely comforting about rain bouncing off an umbrella as your hands and feet, your towels and glove, your clubs and composure get damper and damper, wetter and wetter.

Ross Fisher, one of the last of the early starters, had to play the Brabazon’s treacherous 18th in a downpour, misjudged his drive a bit, found the penalty area, aka water, on the left and wound up with a double bogey six.  He wasn’t unhappy with a round of 68, four under par and mentioned in passing that he’d got his angles a little wrong, not least because it was many years since he’d played the course.  Doesn’t time move on?  Once upon a time the European Tour was always at The Belfry, big events were held there year in, year out, not forgetting four unforgettable Ryder Cups.

Not the best of starts for Europe on The Belfry’s Ryder Cup debut but the best possible result.

The first of those was in 1985 and Europe, who’d come agonisingly close to winning at PGA National in Florida two years previously, lost three of the opening four foursomes.  Oops.  They rallied spectacularly and ended up winning 16 1/2 – 11 1/2.  Remember Paul Way, just 22, who’d beaten the formidable Raymond Floyd in the singles, celebrating on the balcony with great names like Ballesteros, Faldo, Lyle, Woosnam and Langer?  Way lost his golfing way but better, surely, to have had moments of real glory than none at all?

Brendan Lawlor making his ground-breaking European Tour debut [European Tour:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images]

This week Brendan Lawlor, a 22-year old Irishman from Dundalk, a star of the EDGA (European Disabled Golf Association), who only turned professional last September, is moving up a league or three, in a field featuring players of the calibre of Willett, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, to name just a few.  He’s the first professional disability golfer to play on the European Tour and even though he was 1 under par after three holes, he had a tough day on a course playing every inch of its 7,255 yards, finishing with an 84.  The Brabazon can be a bit of a brute, especially when it’s wet but Lawlor was unfazed.

“The back nine was a bit tough,” he conceded, “but I really enjoyed today.  I didn’t shoot the best score but it’s not about the score today.  The coverage over the last few days, people texting and on Instagram, looking at EDGA, that’s the reason why I’m here this week.  It’s really incredible.

“It’s a week to change my life and other people’s lives, so just go out and enjoy it and that’s what I did.  I didn’t have any expectations of scores.  I’m just so grateful to be competing on the same stage as these guys and getting opportunities like this.  What ISPS HANDA represent, they have asked me to be an ambassador this year as well.  It’s a great role for me and I’m enjoying it.”

The International Sports Promotion Society, founded by Dr Haruhisa Handa, who is also the founder and chairman of the Japan Blind Golf Association, is a charitable organisation that promotes sports such as golf, football and rowing, believing that sport “has the power to break down barriers, unite communities and create positive change in people’s lives and society”.  Dr Handa has also been appointed the European Tour’s honorary ambassador of the “Golfers with Disability Programme”.

Lawlor has a condition called Ellis-van Creveld, which he describes as “a type of dwarfism that means I have a shorter stature and shorter limbs but I’ve never let any barriers stop me.  I’ve never thought of myself as any different.”  He was also born with a hole in his heart and doesn’t have any knuckles at the top of his fingers.  “It’s tough to grip the golf club because I can’t bend my fingers in or make a fist, so my two index fingers sort of hang off the club but I’ve adapted because it’s all I’ve known.

“I only got into disability golf two years ago.  My auntie found EDGA on a website but initially my mam was afraid to ask if I would try it because she thought I might be insulted.  I don’t really think of myself as having a disability or being different and everything is so normal in my life but she said would you try disability golf and I thought I’d give it a go.”

And now he’s making his own bit of history.  Go Brendan.


Dai, then the Birmingham Post’s golf correspondent, playing the 18th in March 1977, when the course, once a load of potato fields, opened.  Not sure if he actually hit a shot or just posed….