WHEN Paul McGinley and Tom Watson confirmed their Ryder Cup teams earlier this week, excitement across Europe increased with many already believing that the Americans can be defeated once more.
The Europeans have won five of the last six meetings, so should know exactly what it takes to be triumphant against golfers from across the pond when they go head-to-head at Gleneagles at the end of the month. A couple of weeks earlier, just 24 miles from where the main event takes place, another collection of golfers forming Team Europe will face exactly the same task.
Only on that occasion, at Stirling Golf Club, there will be two North-East men playing alongside Irish, Scottish, Swedish and German team-mates pushing to defeat North America for the third time in four Fightmaster Cups.
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The Fightmaster Cup, created eight years ago, is played in exactly the same way as the Ryder Cup and sees the best one-armed golfers from across Europe and their rivals across the Atlantic compete for team glory. Next week, though, Barnard Castle’s rookie Steven Hutchinson will join Darlington’s Darren Grey, who is something of a Fightmaster veteran, in the European line-up.
“We are going to win, of course,” said Hutchinson, ahead of meeting up with the squad this weekend before next Thursday’s first day’s play. “When I’d heard the Fightmaster Cup had been set up, it soon became an aim of mine to get in to the team. Now that I’ve got my place, I can’t wait and hopefully we can go and win it, even if we know it will be hard.”
Grey, a ten-handicapper with an average drive of 250 yards despite being born without the lower part of his left arm, is something of a familiar name on these pages, having become a regular on the one-armed golf circuit over the years.
The 29-year-old has played in all three Fightmaster Cups so far, accumulating 13.5 points and dropping a solitary foursomes point along the way. He is currently the world number two, so is well placed to guide Fightmaster new-boy Hutchinson.
“I know all about what to expect, so hopefully I can pass on what I know and I’m expecting,” said Grey, who juggles working at Hunley Hall these days with trying to improve his handicap. “It’s something of a learning curve for Steve, as it’s his first one.
“He’s played in the last few World Championships and done well, they’re all great experience, but then the Fightmaster Cup brings different pressures, it’s just about trying to deal with them and enjoy it.”
Hutchinson, 48, an assistant at Blackwell Grange Golf Club who can drive between 230-240 yards, had the movement in his right arm severely restricted after a motorbike accident in 2005 when he was still an army staff sergeant with the Royal Logistics Corps.
“I had no movement at all when it first happened,” he said. “Then I had to have some of my intercostal muscles put in to my arm, then after six months of physio I got some slight movement back. I can move my fingers slightly, enough to carry the shopping for the boss anyway!”
Yet, despite only being able to use one arm to play golf, having previously had a handicap of five, Hutchinson gradually found his game again and with the help of Blackwell pro Ralph Givens he has reached Fightmaster Cup standard.
Grey said: “The idea of the Fightmaster Cup was to try to help develop one-armed golf and help people to get in to golf with such disabilities. The event has got bigger and this year, with the help of the SCORLF tracking system, people will be able to keep up-to-date with the hole-by-hole scores for the first time.
“This year’s Europe team has a few younger players on too, so that shows that more people are taking an interest. What we have to try to do is make sure it continues to grow and people realise that you can still play golf to a high standard despite having a disability, like having one-arm.”
For more information on one-armed golf log on to www.onearmgolf.org