No handicaps for Cian on the course

by Stephen Findlater

CIAN Arthurs is going for a perfect five from five this weekend when he lines out for Europe in the Fightmaster Cup, one-armed golf’s equivalent to the Ryder Cup, in Stirling Golf Club.

Two years ago in Chicago, the Swords man was one of the shining lights for a European team that won a massive 20.5 to 7.5 victory, with Arthurs winning four points from five.

And he reckons that “hopefully, I can replicate it or go one better,” as Europe look to retain the crown at his sport’s marquee event, one that will hope to gain attention amid its close proximity to the Ryder Cup being played just up the road in Gleneagles.

The Roganstown GC club member lost the use of his arm in a lawnmower accident in his youth but has since established himself as one of the world’s best since taking up the sport at age 12. His handicap is now at five and he has been one of the most consistent players since joining the Society of One-Armed Golfers.

To this end, he reached the quarter-finals of the 2013 World Championships. Going one better this year, making it to the final four, secured his place in the European team.

And Arthurs is looking forward to the biggest competition in the calendar which he hopes will also boost the profile of his sport.

“They try and coincide it with the Ryder Cup, playing at a similar time and close venue. It gives everything a bit more of a special feel, make it feel more real and more like it’s known.

“Everyone knows about the Ryder Cup so when you are playing, you can tell people it’s the same competition but for one-handed golfers. In Chicago, we did get good crowds following you around. It’s great to get that support that we deserve. It puts that little bit more of a spark to do better.”

Having lost his right arm, Arthurs has tried playing either “backhand” and “forehand”, settling for the extra distance he gets with playing with the former grip using right-handed clubs.

That is the way his brother plays, inspiring him to try out the game. From there, he has developed to a world level, competing at the English, Irish, Scottish and Spanish Opens while he also plays in “able-bodied” junior scratch cups and aspires to mix it with the best amateurs in the country.

“My brother competes at that level; I would be just short of that but it is a goal for me that I can hopefully achieve one day, trying to get to a level where I can compete with the best of the able-bodied golfers as we say. That’s the goal.

“When I picked up a golf club first – because my brother is a decent golfer, winning the East of Ireland – I took it up from him. He is right-handed and so I did what he does. I tried the other way and I can do it but it doesn’t feel as natural.”

One frustration, though, is that golf missed out on the 2016 Paralympics despite moving into the Olympic Games.

Arthurs describes that as the perfect place to showcase the game and get more people with one arm to get involved.

“We were trying to get into the Paralympics which would have been a big step for us. It’s something we are hoping for 2020. If it’s there and it is seen on TV as an Olympic sport, that’s where you get the publicity and people start seeing more what its actually about. It’s about getting notice and known. It can be frustrating that we don’t get recognised as we feel we should be.”

Indeed, with increased awareness of Paralympic sport in recent years, notably via Channel 4’s exceptional coverage in 2012, there is an element of jealousy at how much it has benefitted swimming and athletics.

“You love to see anyone getting the respect they deserve in any field. You can be a little bit jealous looking at it. You just hope that one day, it could be you with people watching you, the same way you are watching them.

“I mostly do it for the love of sport and want to go and push myself. It’s really enjoyable to get with a group of people with a similar place in life.”

The Fightmaster Cup runs from Friday, September 11 to Sunday, September 13 with Arthurs part of a 12-man team gunning for glory.

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