Ignation Douries is not just targeting success in the Les Autres* Division at this year’s Canon SA Disabled Golf Open. The 18-year-old from Citrusdal is aiming for the overall prize and the prospect of facing global champions at King David Mowbray Golf Club from 15 to 17 May does not dent his title aspirations.
“If my legs weren’t in a permanently at an X, I’d me a lot more intimidating,” joked the pintsized junior, who barely stands 1.7 metres in his golf shoes.
“I’m accustomed to fighting bigger opponents, so size doesn’t matter. I played against a lot of big names in the last two years and they don’t scare me anymore.
Of course I believe I have a chance to win the championship. King David Mowbray is my home course. You don’t need to be a big hitter; you just have to play smart and I can do smart. I’ll just go out there and pretend I’m David and knock out all those Goliaths.”
It’s a brave statement for the young gun, but without grounds.
He competed on the Boland Junior Foundation circuit and, in 2015, beat able-bodied golfers to lift the Boland Junior Stroke Play and Match Play titles at Arabella. For the last two years, he has been the youngest player at the annual Provincial Golf Challenge, but this little bulldog holed the winning clutch putts that gained Western Province successive victories in 2016 and 2017.
Douries plays off an 11 handicap, yet eight years ago, Douries couldn’t even walk.
Born with Arthrogryposis – a rare muscular disease that freezes the muscles – his legs were like two pillars of cement and his destiny was life in a wheelchair.
“In 2009, doctors suggested back surgery,” he recalls. “I had gone through many tests and procedures, so I kept my expectations low, but shortly after the surgery, the muscles in my legs began to relax. I had to do hours and hours of physiotherapy, but I’ll never forget the first time I walked. It was my own walk to freedom.”
Walking led Douries to the South African Disabled Golf Association (SADGA) First Swing Programme (FSP), where he excelled and earned a bursary to the Western Cape Sport School.
“As a border I could play golf every day,” he said. “I had full-time coaching and I could compete in all the Boland Junior Foundation events. Competing against able-bodied juniors just made me more determined to succeed.”
He made his debut in SADGA’s flagship event at Legends in 2013 and competed in the 2014 edition at Zebula. “I don’t remember much of my first two SA Opens, but I learned a lot at Zwartkops in 2015 and 2016 from watching how the top players managed themselves on the golf course.”
Douries took sixth in the Les Autres Division and 24th overall in the U-18 Handicap division last year.
Having cut his handicap by another two shots, the first-year Internet Technology student believes he has the game to go all the way to the finish line this year.
“My ball striking and putting has improved,” he said. “My course management is so much better, but mostly I have the confidence to face anyone on the golf course. I don’t care how many titles they have, I not intimidated by them anymore.”
Douries will line up alongside fellow FSP students Simu Mdudu, Daren Hannekom, Raylen de Wee, Jaco Lumley, Jabu Price Moore, Shane le Roux, Marchello Koopman, Enrique van Wyk, Gregory Adelaar, Kwazi Mahlangu, Mpho Tlhatlha, Wilfred de Bruin, as well as South Africa’s leading deaf golfer, Charles Williams – an FPS graduate who coaches able-bodied and disabled golfers.
The field for the 2017 Canon SA Disabled Golf Open features 85 competitors that includes 22 foreign participants from 12 countries.
The championship is contested over 54 holes in various disability divisions including Leg Amputee, Arm Amputee, Multiple Amputee, Les Autres, Visually Impaired, Deaf and Wheelchair.
The player with the lowest aggregate gross score wins the overall championship.
The second World Cup of Disabled Golf will be played concurrently over the three rounds of the SA Disabled Golf Open, with a final round of Foursomes and Fourballs on 19 May.
Herman van Wyk, Rupert Fortmann, Ben van Zyl and Byron Calvert will line up for South Africa against 10 international teams.