First two ‘Hero’s Handshakes’ awarded to incredible golf juniors

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 31, 2019 05:12

A 12-year-old member at The Belfry in Warwickshire has been given golf’s first ‘Hero’s Handshake’ for the way he uses the sport to deal with his hidden disabilities of autism and dyspraxia.

Meanwhile, a 13-year-old who has fundraised for amazing causes has also received the handshake.

The handshake is designed to recognise young people who get the most out of the game.

Anthony Bridgeman, 12, was chosen to receive the inaugural award by the Young Golf Ambassadors, who represent England Golf and the Golf Foundation.

Anthony described himself as ‘gobsmacked’ and said: “It’s really amazing that I’m the first person to receive this trophy and I just hope I can inspire people to take up and enjoy golf.”

Ambassador Ali Jodiyawalla gave Anthony the handshake and said: “We want to award the Hero’s Handshake to people who sum up what golf’s all about – that it’s a great, fun sport for everyone. Anthony is a brilliant person to receive the first handshake.”

The ambassadors set out to give golf a fresh, young voice and aim to challenge negative perceptions about the sport and get more people talking about and playing the game. They chose Anthony to have the first handshake for four reasons:

  • Raising awareness of disabilities and inspiring everyone, while pushing himself to achieve his own personal targets, despite major challenges.
  • Supporting other young people to enjoy the sport via coaching, encouraging and advising.
  • Determination and commitment to practicing, playing and enjoying the sport he loves.
  • Overall positivity about golf and being an amazing role model to others with or without disabilities.

Anthony Bridgeman, left, with Ali Jodiyawalla

Anthony started playing golf when he was seven because his father thought the game might help him overcome his shyness, make new friends and address his communication difficulties.

He immediately loved golf because of its repetitive nature and he enjoys the process of learning as well as playing. For the last two years he has spent every Saturday volunteering at junior coaching sessions all day at the Belfry.

This is a huge challenge which takes Anthony well outside his comfort zone, but he perseveres to improve his communication skills. He is absolutely determined and focussed to learn everything about the sport while inspiring others around him.

For someone with short term memory issues he’s found ways to tackle his challenges, such as how to remember his equipment or his score, choosing the right club and putting swing changes into practice.

Anthony’s own heroes are his coach, Phil Akers – a finalist for the England Golf Coach of the Year Award for the past two years – and his dad, Andrew, who currently runs his Twitter account, @anthonygolf2006, which tracks his life and golfing journey.

Andrew commented: “Anthony deserves this recognition by his peers for his amazing kind-hearted and gentle nature, willingness to help anyone, his sheer determination and perseverance to improve, whilst facing major daily personal challenges. We are so proud of him and all he has achieved so far, long may it continue”.

Phil added: “Anthony is one of the most inspiring young men I’ve ever come across. I can honestly say that he is the hardest working pupil I’ve ever had, his enthusiasm for the game is infectious. He has a great family around him who go above and beyond to give him the love and support he needs and every day he tries his hardest in everything he does. I’m very proud to call him my friend and beyond proud of his determination and efforts he puts in every day.”

Anthony has over 1,400 Twitter followers around the world from all different backgrounds. He regularly chats with other young golfers and with children and adults with autism and dyspraxia. He’s had positive feedback in the past from golfers like Ernie Els, Gary Player, Danny Willett and Nick Faldo. His ambition is to be the first Masters champion with hidden disabilities.

Meanwhile, Gough, Lincolnshire youngster Archie Qualtrough has become the second recipient of the award.

The 13-year-old Woodhall Spa member received the award from the Young Golf Ambassadors in recognition of the tireless work he has done raising money for charity.

He has already raised well over £5,000 from a series of different golfing challenges and has no intention of quitting any time soon.

Archie started to raise money in memory of two local Derbyshire youngsters, High Peak cycling champion Charlie Craig, and rugby player, Ben Stollery, who sadly both passed away in their teens. His fund-raiser activities to date have included a 24-hour Golf marathon, a 100 Golf Holes in a Day challenge at Cavendish and New Mills Golf Clubs and a five-day 84-mile Coast to Coast Golfathon from Mayport Golf Club to Tynemouth Golf Club.

Archie Qualtrough, left

The charities he supports include the Golf Foundation, Cardiac Risk in the Young in memory of Craig who died in his sleep and Young Minds in memory of Stollery who took his own life.

“We are very proud of Archie and everything he’s done,” said his father, Stuart. “Nothing is ever too much for him. In fact, one of our main jobs is to make sure he doesn’t take on too much. He’d be hitting ball off the top of Ben Nevis given half a chance.

“It’s great that he is getting the award today because we’ve worked out it’s five years to the day that he took up golf. He loves it. He plays off 11 but as he’s always telling me that’s a Woodhall Spa 11.” 

Junior organiser, Alison Johns, a PGA teaching professional at the Woodhall Spa Performance, has witnessed at first hand all the hard work Archie has done and is delighted he has been given the Hero’s Handshake Award.

“It is absolutely fabulous this inspiring young man has been recognised for his commitment to raising money for charities,” she said.

“He is a great role model for our junior members at the national golf centre at Woodhall Spa.”

Archie himself was bowled over to receive the Hero’s Handshake at Woodhall Spa.

“I am surprised and delighted to have been given a Hero’s Handshake Award,” he said.

“I feel honoured and very grateful to have been chosen because of my annual challenges in aid of charities are particularly important to me, and it has definitely inspired me to push myself even harder this year. I’m so happy to be able to help great causes through playing golf.

I would like to thank England Golf and The Golf Foundation for their fantastic support and especially Young Ambassador Ali (Jodiyawalla) who took a day off work to travel all the way to surprise me with the presentation at my home club.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 31, 2019 05:12
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1 Comment

  1. Tom July 25, 16:15

    What a great story, thank you for sharing it.

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