A one-legged golfer is suing his local council after he was barred from bringing his motorised buggy onto a council-run golf course because he did not have a written letter from a doctor.
Paul Houghton, who has represented England in more than a dozen tournaments, says he was “absolutely humiliated” when employees at Hartswood Golf Club in Brentwood prevented him from playing a pre-booked round of a golf with a friend.
“I am a proficient golfer and I have represented my country, so to be told I am not allowed on a course left me feeling pretty terrible,” he told the Epping Forest Guardian. “They tried to tell me that it was not personal but of course I am going to take it personally.”
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The 60-year-old former roofer took up the sport after losing his right leg to necrotising fasciitis in 2000.
The flesh-eating bacteria, which he contracted through kneeling in contaminated water, “consumes muscle and body tissue at a rate of 0.75in (2cm) an hour”, says the BBC.
Houghton was rushed to hospital, where his condition was at one point so dire that he was given the last rites. Surgeons operated at once to remove most of his leg.
After a long, painful recovery from his illness, the father-of-two took up golf as a hobby, to help remain active.
Since then, he has played at more than 100 courses around the world and represented England in disability golf tournaments 13 times.
Although he can walk with the aid of a prosthetic limb, overuse can lead to painful pressure sores. For a long session on the links, he uses an electric buggy to get between holes.
Being told that he could not bring the cart on to the course without a doctor’s note “sends the message that disabled people aren't welcome,” he said, taking aim at what he called “an underlying bigotry in the golfing world”.
“The majority [of] clubs I have played at have been really fantastic and supportive but one or two are still in the 1930s,” he added.
Cae Menai-Davis of the charity Golf Trust said that disabled people represent a “huge untapped market” for the sport. “Making it difficult for a disabled golfer to use a buggy isn't just bad policy, it is bad business,” he said.
Houghton is now suing Brentwood Borough Council for unlawful discrimination.
In a statement, the council said it is “committed to ensuring safe access for everyone to all its facilities” and denies discriminating against disabled golfers.
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