Meet the pro who teaches golf to blind people

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 8, 2021 12:10

Anders Mankert has been teaching – for free – blind golfers now for a quarter of a century, and some have gone on to excel at the game.

GA Advanced Fellow Anders Mankert, the head professional at Leicester Golf Centre – the course and complex he owns and runs, is celebrating a quarter-of-a-century of coaching and helping totally blind and visually impaired golfers.

It is a remarkable achievement, and one that has brought success and delight to many of those golfers around the country he has helped over the past 25 years.

Mankert, an award winning, highly respected golf professional, started working with his first totally blind golfer, Jim O’Brien of Market Harborough, in January 1996.

First O’Brien saw Mankert for lessons at Kilworth Springs Golf Club, where he was then based. Since Anders took over the former Oadby council golf course, which originally closed in 2012, O’Brien has worked with him at the Leicester Golf Centre.

Mankert first opened his high-tech golf range, fitted with Toptracer equipment to each of the 16 bays of the new driving range, later opening his nine-hole golf course, the Gallops, on land close to the Leicester Racecourse, where there were formerly 18-holes.

O’Brien has achieved many successes in golf in his 25 years’ experience with Mankert.

In 2013 he was one of very few totally blind golfers anywhere in the world to have a hole-in-one. His ace came at the Hindhead GC course in Surrey.

But Mankert’s success stories have come from many other golfers too and he is the only PGA professional ever to be awarded honorary life membership by the England and Wales Blind Golf Association (EWBG), with whom he has been involved for over 20 years.

In that time, he has been part of its training programme, hosted clinics all over the country and offered numerous free clinics to enable blind or visually impaired people to experience golf for the first time. Something they may never have been able to experience otherwise. He has also undertaken several fund-raising efforts which have raised thousands of pounds towards buying equipment to enable blind people to take up golf as well as to cover their expenses to access the game.

Chairman of EWBG, Barry Ritchie, has acclaimed Mankert’s work for his organisation. “Anders support has been invaluable in coaching beginners and established blind golfers over the years. He has provided his expertise free of charge and provided the facility for the training to take place,” he said.

“Training for our members has been a priority from the outset of the charity and as we receive no funding other than that raised by our members and board of directors you will realise what a valuable part of our organisation Anders has become.”

Billy Macallister is another totally blind golfer who has come under Anders’ care and expertise.

He travels to Oadby from Brighton once every six weeks for a lesson. He was ranked 65th out of 68 totally blind golfers in the world rankings when they met, but has risen to number three in the world and currently, he is joint top in the UK – so a huge improvement under Mankert’s guidance.

Macallister has won a host of major tournaments around the world in that time and later this year he is due to compete in the World Championships again – to be held in South Africa.

His successes include the British Open, Australian Open, English Masters, Order of Merit, representing the Rest of the World against the USA in the Blind Ryder Cup, also competing in the World Championships in Japan.

Macallister said: “To the present day, Anders still helps me with all aspects of my disability. He has gained much praise for his expertise, calming nature, and asks for nothing in return. I started making strides quite quickly after I started working with Anders. He is one of the top coaches in the country. He is such a nice man and has never once asked for a penny. He always pushes me that little bit further, has an understanding of blind golf and their sighted caddies and he teaches many other golfers like me. He hasn’t charged them for anything either and he has definitely improved me ten-fold.”

Mankert is now offering free access to golf at Leicester Golf Centre’s Gallops course to all blind or visually impaired men and women, allowing them to enjoy the unforgettable experience of golf for the first time on a proper course.

He adds: “As someone who has benefitted from the help of many people over the years, I understand the power of having someone place their faith in me and how powerful that can be. Being given a leg up by someone without any motivation other than genuinely to help is incredibly powerful and can change the course of someone’s life. If I have been able to play some small part in making this happen for someone then I feel very privileged to have been able to do so. I’m in a fortunate position to be able to give something back to the game which has given me so much.”

 

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 8, 2021 12:10
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