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Williams targets SA Open double

13 May 2017

Charles Williams will defend the SA Deaf Championship title during the 2017 Canon SA Disabled Golf Open at King David Mowbray Golf Club; credit Thinus Maritz / SADGA.

Josh Williams from Canada plays off scratch, Kenny Bontz from the United States is a one handicap, and his fellow American Chad Pfeiffer is off two.

Nothing extraordinary about this on the surface, except that these guys are among the 83 golfers from 13 nations that landed in Cape Town this weekend for the start of the Canon SA Disabled Golf Open at King David Mowbray on Monday.

All three golfers have only one leg, and to able to shoot the lights out with such a big ‘handicap’ is quite amazing.

If 2014 SA Open winner Williams is a super star of disabled golf, so is his namesake Charles Williams. After all, the 23-year-old from Lavender Hill in the Western Cape is South Africa’s top ranked deaf golfer.

Being deaf might be considered as less of a handicap than having only one leg, but research has shown that hearing plays a huge part in a golfer's make-up.

You need to hear that sweet sound when the driver connects properly with the ball to know your game is on. You need to hear that nice little click when the putter does its business. You need to hear that lovely swoosh when the swing is working. It even helps to hear the wind when the South-Easter gets up at King David Mowbray, because these are the things that builds confidence in your game.

Coming from a desperately poor, dysfunctional background, Charles was just over a year old when he contracted meningitis and lost his hearing.

"For the first seven years of my life, I didn't speak at all,” said Williams, who makes up for it now. “I couldn’t understand what was going on and my parents didn't know what to do with me. Now I can’t hear much, but I can read lips really well.”

Thanks to many kind people at the De La Bat School in Worcester and his own never-say-die attitude, Charles learnt to lip read and speak. He even passed matric and completed Jewellery Design diploma at the De la Bat College for the Deaf.

At the age of 12, Charles was introduced to golf through the SA Disabled Golf Association’s superb First Swing Programme in Worcester and, under the watchful eye of SAGDA patron and coach Kulk Martinus, the young golfer blossomed.

A few years down the line was the first learner from the FSP programme and first deaf player of colour to earn national colours.

At last year's SA Disabled Golf Open at Zwartkop Country Club in Pretoria, he became the SA Deaf champion - shooting three rounds in the 70s. That feat secured his selection to the South African team due to compete in the World Deaf Championships in Denmark but, sadly, the funding from the Lotto arrived too late and the trip had to be cancelled.

"It was disappointing not to go, but it doesn't matter because there'll be other opportunities,” said Williams. “I'm just so grateful to all the people who have helped me with my golf and my life. I feel I'm going forwards all the time. I'm not sad about being deaf. I love my life and it's great to have the SADGA as my family. I love them and they love me."

In fact, he feels so blessed that he's already "giving back" to the game.

“Oom Kulk gave me my start and helped me to establish myself as a competitive golfer, so now I give back to the programme as a coach,” said Williams.

His skills with the young golfers made a huge impression and at the end of 2016, SADGA relocated Williams to Cape Town. He started the PGA Teaching Professional Level 1 course and coaches both the deaf, severely disabled children from the Noluthando, Eros, Thembalethu, Filia and Dominican schools and able-bodied children in the King David Mowbray programme.

He also serves as an interpreter for the deaf, assists with administrative duties at SADGA’s head office and is the leader of the First Swing programme’s Elite Squad.

“Charles began his PGA Teaching Diploma this year and so far he has done remarkably well and his marks have been outstanding,” said two-time World One-Arm champion and SADGA Brand Ambassador Reinhardt Schuhknecht on the eve of the Canon SA Disabled Golf Open.

“Charles Williams is an extraordinary human being and a much valued member of the SADGA team and that is why we plan to train him as the First Swing Programme Deaf Brand Ambassador.”

Does Charles intend to defend the SA Deaf Championship title from 15-17 May? Absolutely and not many would bet against him.

Written and released by Lali Stander and Grant Winter on behalf of the South African Disabled Golf Association.

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