VETERANS and armed forces personnel have been getting into the swing of things as they prepare to take part in a major European golf tournament.
This year’s English Senior Open takes place from August 22 to 24 at Rockliffe Hall, in Hurworth, near Darlington, with Phoenix House Recovery Centre, in Catterick Garrison, as its charity partner.
In the pre-tournament professional-amateur event, Rockliffe Hall is sponsoring a team of wounded, injured and sick veterans and service personnel from Phoenix House, who will be put through their paces over the next few months to bring them up to pro-am standard.
For the veterans – many of whom have never played golf in their life - their intensive training began this week with Rockliffe Hall’s senior assistant golf professional, Martyn Stubbings.
Hoping to make the grade are 51-year-old Ges Almond, and 36-year-old Paul Nichol.
Mr Almond suffered post traumatic stress disorder after leaving the RAF following more than 30 years of service.
He said: “I never thought I would be able to do something like this – before I couldn’t manage to come out of the house.
"Working with Martyn has been brilliant, and even if we don't make the team we can still help out on the day in other ways."
Mr Nichol, a former member of the Royal Army Medical Corps who suffered a serious spine injury, added: “This sort of thing really helps people like me. It makes you feel normal again – when I am walking round the course I am no different to anyone else.”
Rob Hood, supported activities manager at Phoenix House, said the tournament was a great opportunity for wounded, injured and sick serving personnel and veterans, which could help them on their road to recovery.
Warwick Brindle, chairman of Rockliffe Hall, said: “The English Senior Open is about putting the North-East on the map and we want to get as much of the region involved as possible.
“We’re really pleased that Phoenix House wants to be involved and it’s going to be a huge challenge, not just for those taking part who have never played before, but for our pro-golfers who are training them.
“Everyone is fiercely competitive which is fantastic to see and we’re all backing the Phoenix House team to do pretty well at the pro-am as the team is incredibly enthusiastic and committed.”
The Northern Echo is running a campaign to raise £100,000 for a performing arts facility at Phoenix House.
To donate visit northernecho.co.uk/helpforheroes