European Disabled Golfers Association team will play in GolfSixes Cascais in May

GEORGE Groves playing in the 2019 European Disabled Golfers Association Dubai final during the DP World Tour Championship
Horne Park’s George Groves who claimed the first EDGA Dubai title played at the DP World Tour Championship, in November. Picture by GETTY IMAGES

EUROPEAN Disabled Golfers Association members George Groves and Brendan Lawlor are all set for their European Tour debut in May.

They will join forces in a European Tour first when they tee it up at the innovative GolfSixes Cascais, which returns to Oitavos Dunes Golf Club, from May 9-10.

Groves, who is a member at Surrey’s Horne Park Golf Club, and Lawlor, from Ireland, will be paired together in the competitive matchplay format.

They will form the inaugural EDGA Team, as one of four wildcard selections making up the field.

European Disabled Golfers Assocation member Tony Groves
George Groves who will represent the EDGA at GolfSixes Cascais, at Oitavos Dunes

“To be able to tee it up and play against the Tour professionals is exactly what inclusivity is all about.”

GEORGE GROVES – Word No. 1 disabled golfer

The announcement continues the European Tour’s commitment to inclusivity and innovation with its ground-breaking approach to Golfers with Disability,

It also marks the first time golfers from the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD) will compete alongside European Tour professionals in a regular season event.

The 2020 GolfSixes Cascais will follow the same format as the 2019 edition, with four wildcard teams – featuring stars from male and female golf – joining 12 other two-man teams of European Tour players representing their home nations.

Groves, the current No. 1 on the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability, won the inaugural EDGA Dubai finale in November last year.

The 36-hole event took place alongside the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

That was the second EDGA event which took place in conjunction with a Rolex Series event on the 2019 Race to Dubai.

Groves, a graduate of Dennis Pugh’s Golf College in Sussex, finished second to Lawlor at the EDGA Scottish Open – held during the weekend of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, in July.

And now the pair will partner together in Portugal as they prepare to take on 15 other teams competing over six holes in the greensomes format.

“I’m looking forward to competing in the European Tour’s GolfSixes in Cascais,” said Groves, who suffers from Erbs Palsy, which leaves him with around 20 per cent of normal movement.

“To be able to tee it up and play against the Tour professionals is exactly what inclusivity is all about.

“I’m excited to represent all players with a disability alongside Brendan and we hope to do them proud,” added the winner of the inaugural English Disability Open, last year.

Lawlor, currently ranked No. 4 in the world, added: “Last year I watched the GolfSixes tournament and now I have the opportunity to represent all golfers with a disability in Cascais, which is absolutely amazing.

“It will be great to stand on the tee with George and compete alongside the Tour professionals, men and women, knowing that we are showcasing how inclusive our game is for everyone.”

Brendan, who attended the Darren Clarke Golf Academy in Northern Irelnad, suffers from Ellis–van Creveld syndrome, characterised by a shorter stature and shorter limbs.

Ground-breaking GolfSixes format

GolfSixes will feature a team representing the European Disabled Golfers Association for the first time in 2020
GolfSixes is played by kids across the UK as well as having its own European Tour event

GOLFSIXES has revolutionised the game with the ability to offer wildcard selections to a variety of golfers from all walks of the game.

Previously the event included a ‘Captains Team’ which featured 2018 European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn and 2019 Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew, who were the first male and female professionals to play together in a competitive matchplay format.

“We are thrilled to have George and Brendan competing against European Tour professionals for the first time and to ultimately showcase their talents on the world stage.

European Tour chief executive KEITH PELLEY

It has also hosted a ‘European Women’s Team’ featuring the Ladies European Tour winner Mel Reid and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda as well as a ‘German Women’s Team’ featuring Esther Henseleit and Laura Fuenfstueck.

Former Women’s British Open Georgia Hall, from Dorset, and Woburn’s Charley Hull in 2018, have played twice in GolfSixes, while Wellingboro’s Meghan MacLaren and Lancashire’s Florentyna Parker made up a second England team in 2019.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley
Keith Pelley

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: “GolfSixes is the perfect opportunity for us to champion new ideas and innovate – not just in terms of a different format, but to bring a different form of entertainment from a golf perspective.

“We are thrilled to have George and Brendan competing against European Tour professionals for the first time and to ultimately showcase their talents on the world stage.

“As golf’s global Tour, two of our core values are innovation and inclusivity, and GolfSixes fits perfectly into both of those genres.

“The EDGA Scottish Open and the EDGA Dubai Finale were an immense success for all involved.

“It is fantastic we can reward our inaugural winners in George and Brendan with the opportunity to compete at GolfSixes in Portugal.

“It’s a natural progression and I think the potential for GolfSixes in terms of the overall brand and format is terrific.”

Lawlor turned professional last year, however with Groves remaining an amateur he is unable to claim winnings from the tournament.

The European Tour and the players have agreed to donate the team’s prize money from the event to the EDGA.

Tour chiefs have sought and received approval from The R&A to do so under the Rules of Amateur Status, to help encourage more people with disability to try golf.

European Disabled Golfers Association president Tony Bennett said: “We are thrilled to have George and Brendan representing the inaugural EDGA Team at GolfSixes Cascais this May.

“It is a natural fit for this event to highlight golfers with a disability considering how inclusive and innovative the previous tournaments have been, and we are excited about the possibilities ahead.

“It is an incredible opportunity for our EDGA golfers to compete alongside European Tour professionals for the first time, and we can’t wait to see the rest of the field take shape in the coming weeks.”

You can learn more about the work of the European Disabled Golfers Association and how to get involved by clicking here.

2019 GolfSixes winners Thongchai Jaidee (left) and Phachara Khongwatmai, from Thailand
The 2019 GolfSixes winners Thongchai Jaidee (left) and Phachara Khongwatmai, from Thailand at Oitavos Dunes, in Cascais in Portugal. Picture courtesy of EUROPEAN TOUR

Thailand took title in sudden-death

THAILAND defeated England in a nearest the pin play-off to win the 2019 GolfSixes Cascais and make European Tour history at Oitavos Dunes.

Phachara Khongwatmai and Thongchai Jaidee were tied at 1-1 after six holes in the final against Tom Lewis and Paul Waring, with another trip up the sixth unable to separate the teams.

That meant the event would go down to nearest the pin in the final for the first time in its three-year history, and it was Khongwatmai – 29 years his team-mate’s junior at just 20 years old – who hit his tee shot to concession range out to claim the win.

The tournament returns to Portugal for the second year next door to the Atlantic and only 20 minutes from the capital, Cascais – a village with approximately 210,000 inhabitants.

The city is proud to host GolfSixes, a partnership of the Municipality of Cascais, the European Tour and the Event/Media agency U.COM – which stages the annual Millennium Estoril Open, an ATP Tennis Championship, in the same region.

Oitavos Dunes has hosted the Open de Portugal on four occasions, first in 2005 when Paul Broadhurst emerged victorious, and then in three years in succession in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Those events were won by Pablo Martin Benavides, Grégory Bourdy and Michael Hoey respectively.