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#SameGameSeries - Mark Gibson

​Gibson has won 10 British Wheelchair Golf Events and was the first ever European Wheelchair Golf Champion in 2015

  • 06 July 2020

On a June Monday evening on the practice ground at Spa Golf Club stands a three-time European Champion. Mark Gibson (59) was in a traffic accident when he was 17-years-old which left him with use only of his upper body. 

The Ballynahinch golfer won Paralympic snooker gold in 1984 before turning to golf, but after winning a handful of British Championships he grew frustrated with his buggy.

‘The original buggy I got back in the early 2000’s was a three wheeler but was quite unstable, when you swung the front wheel would move so it didn’t give you any consistency. So in the end I made my own one from a lawnmower which I use today.’
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Playing golf growing up was halted for a number of years after his accident but by chance Mark tuned into the evening news at the right time.

‘I happened to be watching the news and Gerry Kinnane, who plays at Malone Golf Club, was speaking about playing from a buggy. I had tried to play from my wheelchair previous to that and it was very difficult but I saw he could play from the buggy so I decided to contact him. He put me in touch with The Handigolf Foundation and they helped to get me to get a buggy and I went from there.’

Mark uses standard length clubs and plays on the same course, under the same rules as any golfer would.

‘There is an R&A rule book with some adaptations for golfers with a disability but overall there is very little difference.

I’ve played quite a few courses around Ireland and haven’t had many issues with accessibility. My own course is very welcoming and I would say any clubs who are considering issues with accessibility to contact my own club of Spa. 

‘The main issues a lot of clubs have is that my buggy will damage the greens – but once you clarify that no damage is done by my equipment then everything is usually fine.’
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There are a wide-range of physical benefits associated with golf. By undertaking physical activity such as golf, the risk of developing diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers is significantly reduced. It can also improve balance, function and strength – leading to an improved quality of life and enhanced health outcomes. The same benefits apply for Mark.

‘It certainly helps to keep you healthy. It helps to get you out of the house because you could easily put on weight in a wheelchair so you’ve to be mindful of that. It keeps you moving.

‘It also helps you to mix with other people. I used to play snooker and I always liked the sports which you could play alongside able-bodied players.’

Gibson has won 10 British Wheelchair Golf Events and was the first ever European Wheelchair Golf Champion in 2015, winning the event on two-more occasions before the travel commitments became too much. 

‘The European Challenge for Wheelchair Golfers is run separate to other EDGA (European Disabled Golf Association) events as those are limited to a small number of wheelchair golfers. I won in 2015, 2016 and 2017 but I couldn’t return again due to the personal expense and the time it takes to drive down to Spain. It was a big commitment unless you’re being supported to travel.’

Gibson calls for increased support for National Championships for Disabled Golfers of all abilities but notes that advice and support in the area has improved since his accident.

‘It’s about 40 years since I had my accident and there was very little advice back then. I got into snooker because I had some mates who played. It’s much better now in terms of advice – I really think Handigolf is a great resource for anyone looking for a place to start.

‘There is still a long way to go in terms of support but if the disabled are not willing to get out there and play then people won’t be aware and resources won’t be put in place.’

For more information on playing golf with a disability visit https://www.cgigolf.org/participation/inclusion/