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It was 20 years ago exactly that golfer John Pennycott of Whiting Bay was in a hospital bed in the Beatson getting his first chemotherapy prior to the amputation of his left leg – above the knee – due to a malignant tumour.
Forward 20 years and John is now teeing off at the prestigious Gleneagles and Panmure golf courses and winning an ‘international’ disabled golf competition called the Phoenix Cup.
The Phoenix Cup, usually played between disabled golfers from Europe and the USA, had to be hastily rearranged this year owing to international travel restrictions, but it still went ahead as a Europe v Great Britain and Ireland championship.
Last year John was selected as the captain for the team but missed out on playing due to hernia surgery a couple of weeks before the event. This year he was selected to play for the European team, and although missing the disabled golfers from the USA and most of the mainland European golfers, he still represented the European side in a competition where most of the players were Scottish.
John was joined by Stian Halversen from Norway who was the European vice-captain, Kenny Morrison from Harris, Iain Ross (European team captain) from Blairgowrie and Ellie Perks from England who all made up the European team.
Speaking about the three day event, John said: ‘We were lucky enough to play three brilliant courses at Gleneagles, Panmure and Blairgowrie and there was excellent golf and banter with all involved. Strange because for a team event we all had to keep well apart and not socialise in the usual manner before, during or after the games. No team pictures and no group meetings or celebrations and eating only in pairs, although golf was still allowed to be played with four different players.
‘The disabilities included amputees, blind golfers, golfers with MS, Dwarfism, PTSD and other challenges and the handicaps ranged from 4-54. On day two the three other players in my group were all single figure handicappers and in my singles match at Blairgowrie on day three my opponent played off 5. Everybody has adapted their golf around their disability and it was always played in a friendly but very competitive spirit!
‘I was fortunate enough to win all three of my games and team Europe came from behind to win the three day event by 11.5 – 8.5 points. Huge thanks to all the generous sponsors as well as the organisers who must have been nearly crazy at the end having to change plans on a weekly, daily and, at times, hourly basis. It was a shame that the original match with the USA couldn’t take place but it was a chance for the disabled golfers to showcase the best of disabled golf and the spirit in which it should be played.
The Phoenix Cup, as the worlds first fully inclusive team international, has become so successful, that organisers, Scottish Disability Golf and Curling, merged all its other team events, such as the World Cup, Spanish, Masters and other internationals, under that one format which has since been held on 25 occasions in six countries, and involved over 745 golfers with disabilities from 18 nations.
John Pennycott pictured 20 years ago to the day of winning the Phoenix Cup. No_B39Phoenix01
John with the Phoenix Cup which he won as part of the European team. No_B39Phoenix02