Siem Reap: The staging of international events such as this week’s inaugural HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic on the Asian Tour is to lend support for golf to be included in the 2020 or 2024 Paralympic Games, says Dr Haruhisa Handa.
Dr Handa, who is the chairman of International Sports Promotion Society and an advocate for blind golf, is also a supporter of On Course Foundation which helps injured ex-servicemen to take up golf and find them careers in the golf industry.
“I came to Cambodia and decided to start this tournament at such a lovely golf course and collaborate with Nick Faldo. He was happy to help promote the disabled players,” said Dr Handa, whose organisation also title sponsors the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic on the Asian Tour, which will be staged next month, and other major events on the European Tour, European Senior Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Golf Australia and the Ladies Tours.
“I have been thinking that someday we should be in the Paralympics.”
Dr Handa is often regarded as the Father of Blind Golf where he has established associations in 15 countries, with nearly 250 blind golfers playing the game actively.
He was moved some 23 years ago when he was introduced to an Australian whose vision was only five percent, and beat him on the golf course.
“I met an interesting man, Ron Anderson who is from Perth 23 years ago. His eyesight was only five percent. I played golf with him and he played 60 and I played 75 in nine holes. He was very optimistic and had good skills. Then I got involved with many projects to help blind golfers,” Dr Handa recalled.
“I established the Blind Golf Association in Japan and asked my coach to teach blind people to play golf. I want to encourage the handicapped people to play golf, just as ordinary folks.
“The world blind golf champion can hit a gross score of 83 or 84, he’s totally blind. The record is gross 74. I want to do this to enhance their quality of life,” said Dr Handa.
“To make it possible for blind people to play in the Paralympics, we need to collaborate with disabled handicap golfers. I have been speaking to On Course Foundation where the Duke of York is the royal patron and we hope to give disabled golf a chance to play in the Paralympics.”
Dr Handa and ISPS have also launched an initiative in the United Kingdom with the PGA called the ISPS PGA Academy Programme which will see PGA coaches deliver 1,000 golf lessons to blind and disabled golfers in 2012.
Over the years, Dr Handa, known for his generosity as a philanthropist, has supported the Cambodian people through the building of a hospital, orphanage and university. He also established Southeast Asian TV and Radio to help educate the people via the media.
“Seventeen years ago, I launched projects for underprivileged people in the country. We have provided medical treatment for 1.2 million people free of charge and established orphanages for some 300 children and provided education opportunity as well through the University of Cambodia, which is now top three in the country,” said Dr Handa.
“We have subsequently established the Handa Foundation to help the underprivileged as well as promote golf. I believe that golf can help save the underprivileged people."