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Q&A with Ellie Perks

After a business Christmas and New Year period, we spoke with Ellie Perks of Hagley Golf Club, Stourbridge.  At the age of 16, Ellie has already made a big impact in golf across the UK.  Having received England Golf’s Hero Handshake Award, the teenager, who has dwarfism, has been recognized for her selfless work on and off the golf course.

As well as working on her own game, Ellie’s work as an Ambassador for numerous charities including the Dwarf Sports Association UK and Little People UK has already helped increase accessibility and participation numbers of disabled golfers.

More recently, the profile of disability golf has grown, following Brendan Lawlor’s participation in the ISPS Handa UK Championship.  We are delighted that Ellie took the time from her busy schedule to help us learn more about her own golfing aspirations and about the growing disabled golf community in the UK.

Tell us about yourself!
Hi, I’m Ellie and 16 years old.  I have a condition called Achondroplasia which is a form of dwarfism.  This means that although my torso is of appropriate size, I have shorter arms and legs.  I currently play out of Hagley Golf Club.

When did you first start playing golf?
I started playing properly aged 12, but used to watch on TV from age of 7.

What first got you into golf?
My Dad took me up to the local range at Hagley Golf Club.  One of the pros there showed early support and interest.  They also made me aware of a charity called Golf for Disabled Children which offered free golf lessons.  Ever since I have been playing with them.

What’s your first golfing memory?
Joining the charity and enjoying hitting balls and meeting Keith James who runs the charity.

Recently, you were awarded the Hero’s Handshake Award from England Golf.  What was your reaction to the news?
I didn’t know anything about the award and was told about a meeting with Gareth at England Golf.  My Dad and I went onto the driving range.  I felt something something strange was going on, but wasn’t sure what.  When we went out and there, there was a banner with 3 ambassadors of junior golf, with a red style carpet with other guests, who started appluading.

It was a total surprise.  I was the first girl to win it and was very emotional!

Your handicap has come down from a modest 54 to 8 in two years.  Other than hard work, what areas of your own game have worked on improving the most?
I have really worked hard on the mental side of the game.  I used to get stressed about not hitting my best shot, which could put me off for a couple of holes.  I’ve also spent a lot of time on my  short game which has really helped around the greens.  

How would you assess the current levels of participation of disabled golfers in the UK?
There aren’t a lot of disabled golfers in the UK, but there could always be more.  The levels of female disabled golfers, is much lower than it could be.  I’ve been told that there are only 4 in the UK alone.  There really needs to be more juniors involved in the game.  I’m currently by far the youngest competing female golfer, most of my fellow competitors are in their 20’s.

For me it’s all about getting as many people involved at a junior level, which is something I’m very passionate about.

What do you feel can be done on a national scale to help continue growing participation in the game?
Personally, I think promoting it through social media, videos and talking to professionals to help raise awareness for the game.  It’s important to encourage conversations with industry members and associations to work together, to help promote the game.

Players like Brendan Lawlor have helped raise the profile, thanks to him competing on the European Tour.  This helped create so much publicity, which was amazing.  Hopefully now, the Ladies European Tour can follow suit.  There is something to look out for in 2021 though.

You’ve clearly dedicated yourself to improving your game.  What are your personal ambitions and goals in golf.
My main ambition is to inspire as many people as possible, to get into the game of golf.  To help grow people’s confidence and get more and more young disabled golfers playing and have fun.

What advice would you give to parents whose children develop an interest in the game of golf?
Make sure your children are interested and want to play.  Although I’m only 16.  My Dad never forced me to play.  If I didn’t want to play, we didn’t play.  Once children have started to get into golf, let children ask you as parents that they want to play.

If you could play any course in the world, where would it be?
A lot of people say Augusta, but for me it would be Pebble Beach.  It looks extraordinary.  I love being by the sea and it looks fantastic.  I’d love to play there some day.

Who would be your dream Four-ball?
It’d have to be me Lee Westwood, Brendan Lawlor and Lexi Thompson.  I love watching Lexi stripe the ball.  I love watching her play.  Girls v boys!  Bring it on!

Thank you Ellie!  It’s amazing to see your work help so many get involved in our wonderful game.

We look forward to seeing your own game develop as well the growing numbers of disabled golfers across the UK.

You can follow Ellie’s progress on and off the course by following her on Instagram here.

For those keen to learn more about Ellie’s journey and disabled golf, here’s a great video which was produced in February last year.

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