History beckons for Irish raiders at Woburn

John Craven

Alan Gaynor - EDGA

A number of Irish stars will gather amongst many of the world’s most talented disability golfers for the first ever G4D Open. 

Launched by The R&A, the history-making event will be staged in partnership with the DP World Tour with 80 players set to compete over the Duchess course at Woburn. 

Ireland has already proven a hot bed for talent when it comes to disability golf. In June last year, the men in green carried out a crushing 25-shot demolition job at the European Team Championships in Belgium.  


Three of the four stars of the team have since appeared on the G4D circuit where just ten golfers tee-up each week as part of disability golf’s premier series. 

Aidan Grenham was one such player who impressed on his G4D debut earlier this year. The big-hitting Ballinasloe man enjoyed a podium finish in Singapore and after getting a taste for G4D action, he’s targeting the top-10 on the rankings in order to secure a permanent place on the tour. 

“It was great to experience it and hopefully with another couple of good results I can get into the top-10 and get invited to more of them,” Grenham says. 

“Singapore is a place I don’t think I ever would’ve got to if it wasn’t for golf. The courses they’re playing on are incredible – you’ve Wentworth, Dubai at the end of the year. Places you’d never be going if it wasn’t for the DP World Tour helping you get there.” 

A powerful golfer, Grenham lost his right leg in an accident in Boston in 2016, falling from some 30-feet and shattering his nerves before an immediate amputation was needed. The road back to full health was long and tedious but his positive attitude has ensured his lost leg never held him back, and with his new prosthetic, Grenham’s arguably hitting the ball better than ever.  

“I carry the ball 300-yards fairly consistently and the courses are generally quite short out here so it’s an advantage,” Grenham says, still gunning for his first EDGA win. 

“Most tournaments I come to I feel like I can hang in there with everybody that’s playing. I’ve played pretty consistently, I’ve been in the top-3 nearly every time I tee up. I still haven’t got a win but I can’t imagine it’s too far away.  

“I haven’t played Woburn before but I’ve two weeks to prep for it and practice hard. I’ve heard it’s a class course, pretty tight though so you’re going to have to hit the ball straight.  

“It should be a great test. It’s going to be the best field I’ve ever come up against but I’d be confident my game can stand up to the challenge.” 

While Grenham, Brendan Lawlor and Conor Stone were all part of that 25-stroke European Team rewarded with G4D starts, one man patiently waiting for his chance to shine is the fourth piece of that victorious quartet – Alan Gaynor.  

The scratch golfer from Sligo has regularly competed across Ireland’s elite amateur circuit and while just one of the pack at the likes of the North and the West, Gaynor’s adjusting to fresh expectations as a leading contender each time he tees up in the disability sphere. 

“It’s a different kind of mindset trying to win tournaments,” Gaynor says, who was encouraged by Golf Ireland National Coach Neil Manchip to try out for the disability team last year. 

“I wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar in the North or the West but now the courses are a lot shorter at this level of golf and I’m more suited to it. It is a bit strange thinking about winning as opposed to just trying to compete and make cuts but I’m getting the hang of it now.” 

The G4D Open will be Gaynor’s fourth event of the season as he juggles a full-time job in finance with his EDGA schedule. Teammate Brendan Lawlor has shown that making a living from disability golf is possible but for now, Gaynor’s content to take each event as it comes as he chases his first start on the G4D Tour. 

“Would it be possible one day to be working and doing this full-time? I don’t know,” he says. “At the moment I’m working a full-time job and my employer has been incredibly understanding about time-off.  

“I don’t know where this will take me. I’ve a loose schedule put together between now and July. If I get a chance to play G4D, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  

“Yes it would be great, it’s obviously in the back of my mind that if I play well it’s a possibility but I’m not going to let it define the year either. There’s plenty of other golf to play but of course, G4D would be a consequence of playing well and that will be a good sign. 

“But I have to be patient as well. I haven’t played too many tournaments yet. My ranking is starting to improve – it was 18 the last time I saw it so a good week in Woburn will definitely help.” 

While teammate Grenham had to overcome a lost leg later in life, Gaynor grew up with his disability after he was born without a left hand. Back then, his parents opted for surgery when he was just two-and-a-half years young, a procedure called toe-to-hand transfer that took nearly two years to complete; surgeons literally transferring the toe from each foot onto his left hand. It was foresight that greatly improved his quality of life.  

Indeed, Gaynor grew up just like everybody else. He knew no boundaries and when it came to golf, there’s only ever been one notable difference. 

“The glove is the only thing adapted,” he explains. “I get a medium ladies glove and my neighbour from home does all the sewing for me – she’s an absolute legend! 

“She used to mind me as a child and she’s been making them since I was a kid. Apart from that it’s standard length clubs, standard shafts, there’s no difference.  

“To be honest, it’s nearly easier because I don’t have to worry about the grip, there’s only one way I can grip it so that takes the complication out of it!  

“Obviously I wouldn’t be swinging it as fast as any of the other guys off scratch but at this level, there’s no problem with distance.  

“Sure, when I was playing amateur golf off back sticks at the West, on a windy day I’d be struggling but I’ve found ways of getting around. You don’t have to hit the ball 300 yards to get the ball in the hole. There’s more than one way to skin a cat!” 

No place will capture that sentiment more than Woburn where 54-holes of stroke play will decide who writes their name in history as the first ever G4D Open Champion. 

“It’s definitely the biggest disability event that I will have played,” Gaynor says. “15 of the top-20 in the world are at it so it will be a great test for me.  

“I haven’t played with most of the guys who are in the top-10 yet so it will be nice to see where I stack up compared to that.  

“I’ve never been to Woburn but I’m really looking forward to getting there. I’ll fly over the Monday morning, play a few holes Monday afternoon and a full practice round Tuesday before it kicks off. It will be a great week.  

“The R&A getting involved is huge. They don’t run Mickey Mouse events. There’ll be a lot of eyeballs on us and bit of exposure on social media is no harm for any of us. The more the governing bodies get involved, the better it will be.” 

The establishment of The G4D Open follows on from the inclusion of the Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities into the Rules of Golf from the start of this year and The R&A and USGA’s on-going administration of the WR4GD. 

During the week of the event, there will be a symposium bringing together national federations from around the world to discuss important topics relating to the growth and development of golf for the disabled. 

And while more exposure will be most welcome, in recent years, no player has done more than Brendan Lawlor when it comes to putting disability golf on the global map.  

The larger than life Modest! Golf pro has been breaking down barriers since bursting onto the world scene, not least when becoming the first golfer ever with a disability to tee up on the European Tour.  

Yet for all his ground-breaking achievements, Lawlor would place a G4D Open win right up there at the very top should he capture the inaugural crown in Woburn. 

“It’s not just about competing in the event and winning, it’s also about etching your name in the history books,” Lawlor says.  

“We’ve done that a few times as golfers, including when I became the first player with a disability to play on the European Challenge Tour in 2019 and the DP World Tour in 2020, which were big milestones. To win this new championship would be just as big in my eyes.” 

Far from just paddling his own canoe, Lawlor, the unofficial spokesperson for disability golf around the world, has been dragging his Irish teammates up with him and he’s predicting big performances from his compatriots in 2023. 

“Conor Stone, Aidan Grenham, Alan Gaynor… Even though they’re not in the top-10 yet, those three guys are very competitive players and it’s only a matter of time before they’re competing regularly on the G4D Tour,” Lawlor says.  

“Obviously Conor and Aidan have played a couple. Aidan hits the ball miles – 320 yards off the tee and his putting is the best thing I’ve ever seen – you don’t usually get that combo.  

“Generally with a big hitter your short game tends to drop off but his short game is so solid. He could go very well this year if he plays a few events. 

“The G4D has opened an avenue that these guys want to get into. It’s a great place to get your name out there, to attract sponsors. It’s a very marketable product and it’s only a matter of time before it gets really big and hopefully these guys can capitalise.” 

Lawlor knows that by maximising the standard of golfer on the G4D Tour, the circuit as a whole enhances its product, thus improving its long-term scope for success.  

The Carton House golfer wants the best players competing together more often. He knows the importance of players shooting under-par and how red figures not only light up leaderboards, but also highlight the depth of talent in disability golf around the world. 

The G4D Open will shine another bright spotlight on those players come game-week in May. Woburn sets the stage for the stars of disability golf to shine and to date, few have shone brighter than Lawlor. 

“I think it’s going to be the start of something big in Europe,” he says.  

“It’s getting more players in, it’s a big field, it will teach us how we’re going to run events with bigger numbers, and it’s another chance to showcase all the good things about disability golf.  

“I think we’re going to learn a lot from it. I’m definitely excited for it. It’s our first major, and it will introduce bigger events and more people into the events and that can only be a good thing.”  

Ireland’s G4D Open competitors: 

Brendan Lawlor (Carton House) 

Aidan Grenham (Ballinasloe) 

Alan Gaynor (Co Sligo) 

Conor Stone (Carton House) 

Fiona Gray (St Patricks) 

Cian Arthurs (Roganstown) 

Ian St John (Tramore) 

Paul O’Kelly (Portmarnock) 

James McParland (Roganstown) 

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