Champion role model

Youngster helps fellow golfers with disability get into the game

Yorkshire teenager Lewis Eccles is determined disability will not get in the way of playing golf.

Winner of the Special Olympics gold medal in Macau in May and the 2015 British Disabled Open, Eccles is hoping his story will encourage more people to take up and enjoy the sport.

Lewis is one of five English golfers sharing their experiences following the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which shone a spotlight on disability sport.

Many disabled people find it difficult to get involved with sports and physical activity and the English Federation of Disability Sport has set out to encourage disabled people to be more active through its recent campaign Together We Will.

England Golf has joined the campaign and is working with clubs and counties across the country to help and encourage more people with disabilities to play golf and 15-year-old Lewis, from Rotherham, is a shining example.

Lewis was diagnosed with autism when he was nine shortly after he first started playing golf, which he began by hitting a few balls in a local field with his father and older brother.

He showed a natural instinct for the game, joined them at a local golf course and has never looked back.

Lewis plays golf four or five times a week, has a handicap of five and regularly represents Longley Park Golf Club in Huddersfield and Waterfront Golf in Rotherham.

Lewis isn’t content with just improving his own game – he is currently encouraging several other youngsters with autism at his school to get involved with golf.

Since taking up the game, Lewis has transformed into a confident, happy teenager and his father Peter said: “The relaxed social nature of the sport has really helped Lewis’ development, his confidence levels and social skills. It has also helped our family get closer together too. We are all passionate golfers and it is the only sport that we can all play together.”

The National Autistic Society runs a training and consultancy programme called Active for Autism, which aims to increase understanding of autism among PE teachers, sports coaches and anyone involved in sports.

Carol Povey, a director at the charity, said: “The benefits of sport, including golf, are well known – it can increase self-esteem, help develop social skills, and improve physical and mental health, as well as general wellbeing.”