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All-abilities golf continues to grow

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Kristian Hammerback always appreciates the chance to tee it up, but even more so when it’s alongside people who are in a similar situation.

The ball will fly a bit higher and the sun will shine a little brighter when the Winnipeg golfer tries to defend his crown in Golf Manitoba’s all-abilities championship at John Blumberg on Friday and Saturday.

The 36-hole event, exclusive to players with neurological, intellectual, sensory and physical impairments, returns to the provincial circuit after being removed from last year’s calendar due to a lack of entries.



Jeff Vogan / Golf Canada files

Kristian Hammerback will defend his Manitoba All-Abilities Golf crown this weekend at Blumberg Golf Course.

“For sure gratitude, and since a couple of years ago, despite having just six participants this year, the sport of disabled golf continues to grow,” said Hammerback, who was born without an arm below his left the elbow. “It was tough last year not having it but I’m grateful that (Golf Manitoba’s executive director) Jared (Ladobruk) and the team have put it on.”

Hammerback, who is the president of the Canadian Amputee Golf Association and sits on the Governor’s Council of Golf Canada, has been at the forefront of promoting the game to disabled players around the country for decades.

In the past, amputees, the blind, wounded veterans and those belonging to other groups with disabilities have individually tried to grow the game within their respective communities. In recent years, provincial golf organizations have brought them together.

“It’s growing, which is awesome. Just need to continue to grow it at the local level to get the participants up here because I know they’re out there,” Hammerback said.

Some barriers remain, however, such as getting word out that there are opportunities available for people with disabilities and attracting a group of competitive players for tournaments.

“The golfers are out, but for sure I think there’s a reluctance,” Hammerback said. “I know of a few golfers personally that I was trying to get involved and perhaps the competitive aspect, there’s a bit of reluctance there.”

Manitoba debuted its all-abilities tournament in 2022, one year after Golf Canada hosted its first national championship and Golf Ontario ran it locally for the first time. The inaugural Manitoban event featured 12 golfers, nine of whom travelled from other provinces to play.

While the numbers were encouraging at the time, when B.C. and Alberta each held an all-abilities event last year, the local field dried up.

This year, five of the six participants are from Manitoba.

Ladobruk said he believes the return of the tournament is a move in the right direction for the local game regardless of how many players have entered.

“Being able to run it for a second time and creating some awareness about it… just keeping it going and gaining some momentum, even if next year if we get two more players and the year after that three or four, I think that’s important that we put the same resources into it that we would any other championship,” said Ladobruk. “Hopefully, the six players that are with us this weekend will have a great time, and I think some are using this as an opportunity to sharpen their game for the Golf Canada event later this year.

“It’s nice to see it return to the schedule. It’s nice to see that we have some interest from some golfers who are keen on playing it and we’re looking forward to hosting it.”

Players will compete in gross divisions (lowest score wins) and a net Stableford format. The former converts the golfer’s handicap index to the course’s handicap while players receive points based on their score each hole. The player with the most points wins the event.