Thursday, December 2

The ambitious Kipp Popert, desperate for golf to become a Paralympic sport | Golf

REach of the estimated one plus three handicap position is quite arduous without the challenges that have been presented to Kipp Popert. Multiple surgeries to make day-to-day a little easier, regardless of the form of assistance in fulfilling sporting aspirations, means that Popert has been denied a standard amateur career.

Having been born 10 weeks early, Popert was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy affecting his lower body. Throughout his adolescence, a successful summer on the golf course would be followed by another operation, lengthening the compacted muscles and reconstructing the foot between them, in addition to a prolonged recovery time as a routine. It’s no wonder Popert takes off his cap on the NHS.

“Free medical care in this country means that I have been able to undergo procedures that, in other countries, I would not have been able to perform,” he says. “It would have been easier if I didn’t want to pursue a professional sport, but I wanted the opportunity to be able to use my feet to the best of my ability. There were times when I missed a whole year of golf. “

Now 23 years old, a graduate and with what seems like a clear street in front of him, Popert has his eyes set on major events, the Amateur Championship and the Lytham Trophy among them, in 2022. Yet dominance continues to impede the participation of disabled golfers. Despite the Olympic Games having a golf element since 2016, the Paralympic Games will begin on Tuesday of the week without it. That seems as incongruous as it is disappointing. “I’m a player, I just do that part,” says Popert. “Hopefully it happens and it’s ready. As golfers, we play for ourselves most of the time. The greatest honor is to represent your country. I watched football with cerebral palsy in London 2012 and was impressed. “

It must be recognized that the International Golf Federation, which has overseen the Olympic comeback of the sport, is desperate for the inclusion of the Paralympic Games. “The IGF has made a series of unsuccessful bids to be admitted to the Paralympic Games, the last being for Paris 2024,” said IGF Executive Director Anthony Scanlon. “We are currently working on making another request for the Los Angeles 2028 Paralympic Games.

Kipp Popert with the trophy after the EDGA Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews.
Kipp Popert with the trophy after the EDGA Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews. Photograph: Andrew Redington / Getty Images

“The IGF strongly believes that golf would be a great addition to the sports program and is no less dedicated to making that happen. We are confident that the inclusion of golf in the Paralympic Games will be as great a success as the return of golf to the Olympic Games. Similarly, it would generate enormous interest around the world and inspire a new generation of athletes with disabilities to participate in sport. “

For now, the eloquent and impulsive Popert excels in the settings available to him. He recently reached the top of the world ranking of disabled golfers. Popert has been a leading player and winner as the European Tour maintains a close alliance with the Continent’s Golf Association for the Disabled through 36-hole tournaments. The standard in him is high; Popert fired a final round 66 to win at St Andrews last weekend. In November, Dubai will host the grand finale of the EDGA and the European Tour.

“I want to keep pushing handicap golf and EDGA,” says Popert. “My ultimate ambition is higher than anyone would say, so I’ll keep it to myself, but I want to reach my potential. That definitely includes playing on the European Tour. When the time is right, I will turn pro and do my best. If I can set a high bar and people look up to me, it would be a great honor. “

Popert has no reason to underestimate the obstacles that lie ahead. Golf is a game of physical rotation and, especially in the modern age, of power. The Kent player’s limitations in that regard seem obvious. “My disability is not progressive, so it won’t get any worse than the things that happen to your muscles as you get older,” Popert says. “That has always helped me mentally; I know that by working hard, I can improve my condition and my ability to live with it. I do everything I can to be able to do everything I can.

“I have added clubhead speed over the last year and I think I can add more. The beauty of golf and what gives me a shot is that 70% of shots are made from 120 yards inward. An elite player from 120 yards inside will score well. The modern game goes a certain way because of the distance, but I can still work really hard on the other parts of my game. It’s in my nature to keep pushing because of all the setbacks and operations I’ve had from a young age. “

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Also, sadly, the dismissive looks. “Oh yeah, all over the school,” Popert recalls. “When you are 14 or 15 years old, telling people that you are going to play at the highest level of golf while struggling to get into gym class? I remember being in a buggy at a golf club because my feet were particularly bad that day and an older member asked, ‘What are you doing on that?’

“I don’t care if people ask me about my condition, I have lived with it so it is part of who I am. If it had been much easier for me to grow, it would not be as resistant as it is now ”. The Paralympic Games, for now at least, are missing a putt in tap-in range.

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