CHAMPION WESTOWN TEAM OPENS FAIRWAYS FOR ALL
Julie Johnston says she is just one of many Community Champions at Westown Golf Club.
Many credit Julie with getting the innovative All Abilities Golf programme going earlier this year, but she insists it is a real team effort. The weekly Sunday morning sessions, which began in February, cater for people with a range of disabilities, from wheelchairs, and hearing and sight impairments to those with Downs and stroke effects. After sparking the idea to open up their fairways, Julie rallied over 25 club volunteers to help with the programme, which is also supported by Parafed Taranaki, the Halberg Trust and NZ Golf.
“We just want to try to incorporate people with a disability into the club atmosphere and a game that is challenging for ever, and the friendships…it is a huge amount more than golf,” Julie says.
Sam Burgham, who has enjoyed taking part in the program said All Abilities opened the door to the club to the wider community.
"It means I can just be like everyone else and not sit out on the sidelines and get out there and play golf on a Sunday. It’s great to be part of a golf club, otherwise there is no opportunity. You want to get amongst it and have the same opportunities as everyone else because at the end of the day everyone has a right to recreation. It’s just about keeping it simple… you are just out there to have fun and play golf,” Sam said.
Parafed Sport Development Advisor Tracy Coker says the club had built a ramp for accessibility, but it was the relationships being made by club volunteers, led by Julie, that were just as important.
“Usually people with a disability are separated from the mainstream and they are used to that but everyone is included, it doesn’t matter how good or how bad or whatever, everyone is coming together and having fun and participating in golf. The volunteers… are key, without the volunteers it wouldn’t run. They give them laughs, they give them friendship, they support them. They make it basically.”
Club life member Pat Kenny who helps with the All Abilities programme said he enjoyed contributing. “It’s very rewarding…I’m not a champion golfer so they won’t learn much from me but being able to come up and help is something I can do. It’s always been a marvellous club but at the moment it just seems to have that extra vibe.”
Pat says another goal for the club is to make things more accessible for the programme, with a dedicated golf cart.
“Sometimes getting where you need to go is the hardest part so it would be great to get some help for that.” Any local business who could help would be sure to get great exposure, he says
In the meantime the club will keep learning and growing and looking for other ways to work with the community. All Ages Golf , for those golfers who find playing nine holes too much but want to keep their hand in, is also proving a hit along with a junior golfers programme run by another dedicated club volunteer, Kim Hills.
Julie says volunteering through golf was ideal.
“Once I finished work nursing I wanted to volunteer and give something back to the community. If I can be incorporating golf and doing something here while giving something back… It’s such a win-win thing.”