|How wonderful would it be for a Deaf golfer to win the Masters? Impossible you might be thinking. Well, there are a couple of Deaf golfers around the world who have the potential and hold such ambitions. At 18 years of age, the highly accomplished Paul Waring is amongst them. Following an interview with Transworld Sport, due to be aired on our televisions on the 18th October, Paul was kind enough to answer some questions for us so that we could find out how this young man has become such a leading figure in world deaf sport.As Lee Dolby from UK Deaf Sport describes, “Paul really is starting to break new ground for deaf sport. He is bridging that gap between competing in deaf competition and mainstream tournaments and gaining success in both. His performance is outstanding, with titles at both national and European level and with such a strong showing at the world championships, he is definitely a star in the making. Hopefully, he will inspire the next generation of deaf players to realise that they too can compete in both deaf and mainstream events.”
Born and brought up in Suffolk, Paul has been Deaf since birth. Taught orally in Fairfield Primary School in Felixstowe, he then attended a Hearing Impairment Unit in Rushmere Hall Junior School in Ipswich. Developing good friendships, the Local Authority wanted him to go to a different high school to his friends, but after a battle, he subsequently joined them at Northgate School, where he had access to full-time signed support.
A keen footballer when he was young, Paul was invited to a trial with Ipswich Town. Unsuccessful in his bid to join their academy, Paul told me that football did not come without its difficulties. “I found being deaf quite a problem,” he explained, “as there is a lot of talking on the pitch which I did not hear.”
With a golfing dad, people believe it was only a matter of time before Paul gave golf a go. Aged 12, dad Steve took him for some junior lessons, those early lessons paving the way for a speedy rise through the golfing ranks. “I soon really started to enjoy it and stopped playing football to concentrate on golf,” Paul told me. Getting his customary golfing handicap of 36 in the Summer of 2008 when first starting out and warmly embraced by the members at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club, Paul’s handicap has tumbled quickly ever since.
Blessed with a positive attitude around being Deaf, like many Deaf school children, Paul faced a few ‘issues’ in school, but to use his own words, he “just got on with it”. However, taking his schooling seriously, particularly P.E. which he loved, Paul left school aged 16 with 5 good GCSE’s in the bag, including an A in his P.E. exam.
Playing regularly, Paul’s golfing progress happened quickly, playing off scratch (0.2) by the end of 2013, just five years after getting serious about the game. His progress will be the envy of many amateur players who aspire to play golf at the top level. For some of us, a handicap of 0.2 would be job done, but for Paul the hard work continues and ambitions remain unfulfilled. Working with a new coach since the summer of 2013, Paul has continued to improve his handicap, which now stands at an impressive +0.2.
A plummeting handicap is impressive enough, but Paul’s achievements in competitions on the golf course are stand out. At 18 years of age, he is already showing he has the mental strength to compete at the highest level.
Competing in mainstream events as a junior and now as an adult, Paul’s dad Steve discovered deaf golf through the Internet. Joining England Deaf Golf Association just 2 years ago, Paul has already enriched an already accomplished golf team and made his mark on Deaf golfing events. With too many competition wins to name them all, I asked Paul about his top five golfing achievements.
Proudly, he responded, “Winning the European Deaf Golf Men’s Championship, being in the England Team that won the European Deaf Team Championship, Ipswich Golf Club Men’s and Junior Championship in the same year (2013) and Felixstowe Men’s and Junior Champion in the same year (2014).”
Commenting on his already formidable success, Lee Dolby form UK Deaf Sport said, “We hope that Paul’s success and the success of others within England Deaf Golf will help strengthen the partnership that is developing with the National Governing Body. England Golf are keen to support deaf people take up the game and we are encouraged by the conversations that we are having regarding future support for the elite level. We understand the challenges of funding, but need to work to a system that recognises all talent regardless of disability, so that we can continue to succeed on a national level. We hope that this success can then be replicated in all the other home nations.”
Already performing at an elite level within Deaf sport, Paul’s success has not come without the necessary hard work and dedication. Seeking to establish what a typical week entails in this remarkable young man’s life, Paul said, “If I am not away playing in an event then I will practice and play 6 days. I would normally spend 1.5 – 2 hours working on my swing, then do a little short game practice and then go and play. Depending on how many holes I play, I will often do some more short game practice afterwards. I also try and do some exercises and go for a run 2 or 3 times a week.”
It is not just hard work and no play though, with Paul enjoying many of the activities of any typical 18 year old; socialising with friends, fitness, on-line football manager; playing computer games; and visiting family. Whilst much of his golf is now about competition, Paul still enjoys golf for many of the reasons most people play the game, playing with friends, meeting new people and getting the chance to play in team competition. It is the winning though, that most appeals to him.
Being successful in golf requires a great deal of golfing talent, but at the competitive level, it is also a game of the mind. Suffering from nerves myself when playing for my country, I was keen to learn how Paul copes with the pressure at such a tender age. Helpfully, Paul told me, “You have to try not to think about anything apart from the shot you are about to play. Nothing else matters, just see the shot, trust your swing and hit it.” It sounds like great advice!
Paul’s advice to any youngsters wanting to take up golf is, “Just go along to your local club. Most of the clubs will have junior coaching sessions organised through the summer. It’s a great way to learn and meet new friends and in a group it’s not too expensive.”
Spending so much time on the golf course, I asked Paul to share with me a funny story that had happened to him. Over delivering, as is his custom, Paul gave me two. I chuckled at both so much, I just had to share his stories with you. “My Dad and I were playing one day and we had to wait for a man to play from a bunker before we could hit our shots. Knowing we were waiting, the man rushed his shot, raked the bunker and urgently picked up his bag and started to carry it. Trouble is he had forgotten that he had a trolley, so was carrying the bag and trolley, it was so funny.”
“Another one was on Christmas Day 2 years ago. Me, my dad and two friends were playing a few holes and as we got onto the last tee, the sky looked black. It was going to rain heavily so we decided not to play anymore and go straight in. Being young and fit, I decided to sprint to the clubhouse. I had got about 100 yards when my trousers caught the stand on my bag & I went tumbling down the fairway with clubs flying everywhere. I think this was funnier for the other 3!”
Having introduced Paul to golf and supported him every step of the way, I had to find out what dad Steve thought of Paul’s achievements so far. “We are immensely proud of Paul,” Steve told me. “It is great for us to be able to see him compete in national competitions, both deaf and hearing. Through golf, his self-confidence has grown. In the early days, he was very shy and did not interact much when he played with different people, but now he is totally fine with meeting new people and has made many friends around the country who he sees at different tournaments and plays against in County matches.”
With ambition still burning brightly and with so much still to offer, I asked Paul about his ambitions from here. Giving it a great deal of thought Paul said determinedly, “I want to have a successful amateur career, then turn professional and play on the European Tour and ultimately to play in and win the Masters.” I won’t be betting against him, in fact, along with a lot of other supporters I will be backing him every step of the way.
With the Transworld Sport programme due to be shown on Channel 4 this coming weekend, Paul will be achieving something unique in Deaf Sport. His accomplishments are central to that opportunity, but the support and role of UK Deaf Sport has also been instrumental in securing Paul the opportunity. Describing Paul’s involvement with the programme, Lee Dolby said, “The profile that Paul is now gaining is testament to the talent and success that he is having. To have such a high profile show as Channel 4’s Transworld Sport feature Paul is just reward for all his hard work and commitment. We hope that by securing this media coverage for him, it will not just highlight his skills to the world, it will also highlight the talented sports people that exist in deaf sport across the UK, some of whom achieve great success that unfortunately goes unnoticed.”
The programme will be shown on Channel 4 at 6.10am (7.10 on Channel 4 +1) on the 18th October and I for one will be tuning in!
If you would like to get involved in deaf golf, you can find out more information on the UK Deaf Sport website atwww.ukdeafsport.org.uk