2023 Qld Blind Open winners -From left, Neil Herdegen, (winner, Stroke division), Steve Art, (winner, Stableford division) Dr Brad Carver, (runner-up Stableford division) at Parkwood International Golf Club on the Gold Coast, Australia.
Spotlight on Triumph: Steve Art wins Queensland's Blind Golf Tournament
AUGUST 14 2023
Queensland vision-impaired golfer Steve Art scored an impressive and inspirational win in the stableford division of the State’s premier blind golf tournament, the 2023 Queensland Blind Golf Open, held at the Parkwood International Golf Course on July 27th and 28th on the Gold Coast.
The event showcased a strong show of both skill and friendship among blind and low vision athletes. Amidst this inspiring atmosphere, Steve Art’s victory serves as a shining example of determination and sportsmanship within the blind golf community.
Lakelands Golf Club member, Neil Herdegen performed well from tee to green in the two-day tournament to secure his 3rd Queensland Open title in the low-handicap Stroke division, while Dr Brad Carver from Virginia Golf Club scored consistently to bag the stableford division runner-up trophy.
The annual event is widely renowned as the highlight of the Queensland Blind Golf calendar for all blind and low vision players. Once again the Queensland Blind Open attracted participants from across the country. This year, the tournament embraced inclusivity by inviting all-abilities players from the Special Olympics Australia organization. The fairways became a symbol of unity as a diverse and inspirational group of athletes came together.
Steve Art, aged 61, emerged as the star of the stableford division, tailored for high handicappers with a golf handicap of 18.6 and above. Hailing from Logan Village, Steve’s victory marked an unparalleled achievement in his golfing journey. Overcoming challenges and competitors, he secured his first-ever victory in the main category. Notably, Steve returned to golf after a prolonged hiatus and the onset of his vision impairment. Supported by his dedicated wife and caddy, Sue Art, Steve displayed remarkable finesse on the course, navigating challenges and opponents to claim his well-deserved victory.
“It’s an honor and a dream come true,” Steve Art expressed with pride. “To win the stableford division at the 2023 Queensland Blind Open is beyond words. This victory is a result of hours of practice, the coaching and support of Mark from Big Tooks Sports, and Jasmin from Golfer Girl Australia, along with the unwavering dedication of my wonderful wife, Sue.” Sue added, “Caddying for Steve is a real joy, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to meet other blind and vision impaired golfers. We always have a great time on the course, regardless of the outcome.”
Queensland’s blind golf tournament was organised by Blind Golf Queensland and World Blind Golf. Blind Golf Queensland (BGQ) is Queensland’s oldest and largest blind golf organisation, managed and operated exclusively by blind and visually-impaired golfers. Blind Golf Queensland has recently become an affiliate club of World Blind Golf, joining other blind golf clubs from across Australia and around the world to become part of what is now widely regarded as the world’s fastest growing blind sports organisation.
Like all other World Blind Golf tournaments held in Australia, the old system of subjective sight classifications for blind golf games has been completely replaced by regular golf handicaps, making the events more inclusive and more enjoyable for players.
The tournament’s narrative encompassed more than individual victories; it was a collective of remarkable achievements. Gold Coast local Neil Herdegen emerged triumphant in the stroke division, demonstrating precision that Neil credits to being a student at the esteemed TS Golf Academy at Robina.
Neil praised Todd’s work, adding “it certainly helps when you have a good friend who’s also a PGA pro on the bag calling the shots!”
Neil, who is also the CEO of local not-for-profit World Blind Golf charity, reflected on his journey, sharing, “It’s quite amazing – I’ve always been a shocker on the golf course. I’m somewhat surprised that my golf is gradually improving. It just shows that people with limited vision, with the right training and some assistance from their caddies, can enjoy golf without seeing the ball clearly.”
In the Stableford division, Dr. Brad Carver narrowly clinched the runner-up award, guided by his wife Paula Carver who also happens to be a champion Virginia Golf Club senior golfer in her own right. Brad’s skill in sinking his signature long lag putts proved to be his winning strategy. The Senior’s division was won by legendary ZIllmere golfer Dick Kennedy expertly assisted by his eagle-eyed and spritely-toed caddy, Dennis Farmer.
The tournament’s embrace of all abilities was illuminated by the young sensation Kane Leonard, a member of the Special Olympics program. Kane’s impressive swing speed and precision long iron shots exemplified the inclusive spirit of the sport.
The event also celebrated Thi Nguyen, a Marsden native, who earned the Harold Horsfall Trophy for Best New Golfer. Thi’s exceptional performance was matched by her radiant attitude, leaving a lasting impression on fellow competitors and spectators. Thi’s husband Xuan Nguyen guided his wife around the course as her caddy for the two-day event.
As Xuan carefully guided his wife, it was evident that their connection extended far beyond marital ties. Their shared passion for the sport of blind golf was palpable, infusing each swing and putt with the passion they both share for the sport of blind golf.
Reflecting on the tournament’s success, Steve Art acknowledged the collective effort behind the scenes. “The blind and low vision community owes a debt of gratitude to Blind Golf Queensland and World Blind Golf for their tireless dedication,” Steve noted. He also extended appreciation to event sponsors First2Care for their unwavering support, emphasizing how their involvement enhanced the players’ experience.
First2Care‘s commitment goes beyond sponsorship, embodying their dedication to enabling individuals with diverse abilities. As a prominent NDIS independent plan manager, First2Care champions inclusivity and accessibility across various domains. Their sponsorship reflects their commitment to equal opportunities, particularly in the realm of sports. Through this partnership, First2Care aims to create a platform where blind golfers can showcase their talent, foster camaraderie, and inspire others.
First2Care Managing Director Peter Withey shared, “The 2023 Queensland Blind Open is not merely a golf tournament; it’s a celebration of inclusivity, resilience, and the remarkable spirit of athletes. We are honored to support blind and low vision athletes, providing them a platform to thrive.”
The ripples of this year’s Queensland Blind Open extend far beyond the golf course. Through the lens of blind golf, the tournament demonstrates the transformative power of sports, fostering unity, breaking down barriers, and changing lives. As attention shifts to upcoming events such as next month’s inaugural Thailand Blind Open and the highly anticipated WBG Australian Open to be held in Brisbane in February, blind golf’s journey continues, driven by the unwavering dedication of players, organizers, and supporters.
Steve’s achievement resonates with the core values of inclusivity and opportunity upheld by World Blind Golf. This dedicated Queensland-based charity strives to open new horizons for blind and low vision golfers, relying on assistance from volunteers to directly impact our players. Every donation, big or small, makes a significant difference to blind and vision impaired individuals seeking to excel in the sport they love.
Additionally, World Blind Golf ensures that all donations are not only impactful but also 100% tax deductible.
To learn more about our mission and how you can play a crucial role, visit the official website of Blind Golf at www.blind.golf.