The G4D Open

Words by: Alex Ames
Photography by:Jack Ducey

His green jacket and tie compliment one another almost as well as the dark shades that hang over his thick silver moustache. A casual swagger takes him to the starters box and he puts a microphone to his mouth. Adem glances longingly at the large silver trophy glittering in the dappled light of Woburn Golf Club.

“Next on the Tee, from Belgium, Mr Adem Wahbi!”, comes from beneath the moustache.

The whole MANORS team draws breath. CNN are here, Sky are covering the event, The R&A are running the show and our friend Adem is teeing off in front of all of them. I’ve never played elite golf, far from it, but this has to be the hardest part? You can’t win the tournament with your first tee shot, but you can lose it.

A dense line of pine trees snakes out ahead of Adem on either side, framing the narrow path his ball must travel to the flag. Easier said than done. He blasts one down the left with a signature fade and brings it back to the centre. We’re off to the races.

The R&A launched the G4D Open last year - the first true major for disabled golf. Adem is in the featured group, playing with Hayato Yoshida and last year’s winner Brendan Lawlor.

Brendan has Ellis-Van Creveld Syndrome, characterised by a shorter stature and shorter limbs, he was also born with six fingers and had one removed. For some, this could be a lifelong disadvantage but with the mantra - “get better, not bitter” Brendan has excelled and become a voice and shining light in our sport. He’s calm, composed, exceedingly kind and the regularity with which he sticks the ball within 5 feet is absurd. Alongside Kipp Poppert, Adem and a number of other G4D athletes Brendan is establishing golf as the most accessible game there is.

For 9 holes Adem keeps pace with Brendan and Kipp - the favourites. Adem’s form has been patchy of late, but you’d be foolish to count out a man who warms up listening to a combination of Michael Jordan speeches and the Quran. Adem is a phenomenal chipper and putter but he’s been struggling off the tee recently and at the turn the incredibly penal Woburn Golf Club begins to get the better of him.

Despite some elite scrambling and two chip-ins the first round puts Adem too far back to get his hands on the G4D Open Trophy - Brendan and Kipp will not let that number of shots go to waste. I can tell Adem is upset, he wears his heart on his sleeve. But when the game finishes he takes off his hat, shakes Brendan and Hayato’s hand and thanks everyone from MANORS who came to see him play. Adem is always gracious.

Win or lose Adem is a great ambassador for MANORS and golf broadly, but he won't be remotely satisfied by that. Next week he competes in the French Open and he’s already working to get his driver back on the fairway.

Watch this space.

Follow Adem’s journey on @adem_wahbi and please - show him some support.