It took more than 100 years for golf to be successfully reinstated as an Olympic sport.
Now, the adaptive golfing community is looking for a similar breakthrough when it comes to golf in the Paralympics.
Despite golf becoming fully entrenched as an Olympic sport starting with the 2016 Rio de Janerio games, the same can’t be said of the Paralympics, which has not recognized golf as a sport for its event.
The Paralympics, which is held shortly after each Winter and Summer Olympic Games in the same city that hosted the Olympics, is a multi-sport event for athletes with physical disabilities.
Mark Johnson is director of development and advancement for the U.S. Adaptive Golf Association. At the International Para-Golf Championships in Frankenmuth, Michigan in late August, he said that there is a movement to get golf approved as a sport by the time the 2024 Paralympics are held in Paris, France.
“The movement for golf in the Paralympics is something that is real, and, events like this demonstrate the skill of our athletes and why golf should be a part of the Paralympics,” Johnson said.
The organization is hoping to put on an exhibition tournament at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan, to showcase participants and the sport.
“They want to hold an event out there demonstrating that the movement is real and demonstrating we are serious,” Johnson said.
For the International Para-Golf Championships, there were 90 golfers from 10 countries in attendance, with participants from Japan, Korea, Costa Rica and Germany competing.
Following a round, John Bell, a competitor from Weeki Wachee, Florida, talked about the costs participants have to absorb when traveling to tournaments.
He said having golf in the Paralympics could give adaptive golf a huge platform to which sponsors can jump on board and possibly help alleviate those costs.
“It would be so much more feasible,” Bell said. “That thing (pointing to his truck in parking lot) doesn’t drive up here for free. The Holiday Inn isn’t free. I would say 95 percent of us are paying for all of this out of pocket. A lot of people, this is their vacation.”
Beyond providing further awareness to adaptive golf, getting the Paralympics to welcome golf as a sport can further showcase what amputees can do in athletics.
Kellie Valentine, a resident of Erie, Pennsylvania, has been competing at adaptive golf tournaments for more than 20 years and knows what the Paralympic stage would mean.
“I think it would be the best,” Valentine said. “To showcase the talent the disabled community has, especially in the game of golf.”