We featured last month in The Resident the ‘Celebration of Champions’, held during The Open week at St Andrews, which featured Monique Kalkman and three other EDGA golfers with a disability as they teed it up alongside Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Georgia Hall and other greats of the game in this unique challenge watched by golf fans around the world.
Jennifer Sräga of Germany is a fellow EDGA player of Monique’s, and was also present for this Old Course challenge. Here, even some of the former Open champions showed a few nerves on the day, but Jennie appeared comfortable and confident as she teed off on the first alongside Henrik Stenson and Mark O’Meara in her group.
“I have learned that I have to trust myself and test myself, so this felt like a wonderful moment, not a scary one,” said Jennie, who is 22 and from Ulm on the border of Bavaria.
As the crowds lining the 18th hole cheered Jennie, she drilled her second shot over the ‘Valley of Sin’ and onto the green. A lovely lag putt earned a closing par, but the statement of Jennie to all the people watching was clear: golf can be a game that all of us can play, a sport that can include everyone.
For the rest of Open week, Jennie returned the support she received from The R&A in attending the championship by taking part in golf activities to grow the game staged in the Spectator Village at St Andrews.
Jennie added: “It’s all about trying the game and seeing if you like it. If we have inspired one person with a disability that golf could be great for them, it is all very much worthwhile.”
Jennie’s own golf is steadily improving (her handicap is 3.2) as she works on all facets of her game. Her chipping and putting can be particularly impressive and helped her to secure a place in the Diversity Cup, played as part of the Solheim Cup in 2019, an event that first put Jennie in the international spotlight.
Jennie said: “When I started thinking properly and practising, I realised that I could beat others. I had to learn to believe in myself. If you find a sport like golf, you have only to keep doing it and never mind what the others say.”
It is not only at golf in which Jennie excels: she recently graduated from high school and is now studying for a degree in Pharmacy at the University of Würzburg.
She was born with Achondroplasia, which is commonly called short stature, and she is motivated to help others know about her disability. “I think one reason why people with disability get separated from the others is those non-disabled people don’t think they can ask someone about their disability. Perhaps they feel it is too direct or too personal? I think this barrier could be an artificial problem; if we people with disability are more open and simply say ‘Hello, my name is Jennie, I saw that you looked a little strange at me, do you have any questions?’”
Jennie has advice for others living with a disability. “Just live your life. We can’t change it – we have to accept it and so stay strong. Believe in yourself. After all, that’s what makes us all human.”
– Watch/listen to profiles of EDGA players at www.edgagolf.tv
– Learn how to get involved at www.edgagolf.com
By Ben Evans