Physically challenged athlete Riccardo Bianciardi says golf was his ‘rebirth’

The spirited Italian will be playing on the G4D Tour alongside the Ras Al Khaimah Championship on the DP World Tour

By KT Golf

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Italy’s Riccardo Bianciardi will be playing in next week's G4D Tour event alongside the Ras Al Khaimah Championship on the DP World Tour. - Supplied photo
Italy’s Riccardo Bianciardi will be playing in next week's G4D Tour event alongside the Ras Al Khaimah Championship on the DP World Tour. - Supplied photo

Published: Sat 20 Jan 2024, 11:10 AM

Ahead of next week’s inaugural G4D Tour @ Ras Al Khaimah Championship, Khaleej Times had the opportunity to catch up with one of the world’s leading players with a disability, Italy’s Riccardo Bianciardi.

The 32-year-old from Siena, who was born with cortical dysplasia with hemiplegia (weakened right side), has previously stated he felt golf was his “rebirth” after first trying the sport when he was at school.

Since then, he has gone on to earn recognition on the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) circuit, winning the 2022 EDGA Giovanni Nasi International in his home country, playing nine months after a kidney transplant, before winning the final of the RSM European Net Play-offs at North Hants GC last September, which helped him secure a spot at Al Hamra Golf Club next week.

Excerpts from the interview

KT: Riccardo thanks for your time, when did you start playing golf?

I started playing when I was 13 years old at my school through a golf project. I had an amazing time. With my disability I cannot play many sports, but in golf I found a sport that I could participate in.

How does your disability affect the way you play golf?

I am quite unbalanced, which means if a course has tricky terrain, I find it difficult to find balance anywhere. I also have a weakened right side which affects my swing. If I want to good contact with the ball, I can find it difficult, but I am working in the gym and stretching to find better movement and balance.

When did you find out about EDGA?

Up until 2019 I only played golf against able-bodied players before I found out about EDGA, which was like finding another world. It’s fantastic and has helped me work on myself – it’s beautiful. To see other golfers with a disability was amazing, I was very excited to compete against them. I’m proud to be in EDGA with everyone.

You’re currently 11th in the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD), you must feel very proud of that achievement?

To see myself up there in the rankings is beautiful – it’s amazing.

You won the EDGA event at the RSM European Net Play-offs which helped you qualify for the G4D Tour @ Ras Al Khaimah Championship – how did it feel to win that and secure your spot next week?

I arrived in the UK with zero expectations of winning that event. I kept winning match after match and then I was crowned champion, which was unbelievable. Afterwards I was emotional. It was wonderful to play with the Italian badge on my shirt. I called my father and he was overjoyed and crying on the phone! I feel very proud and excited to be playing at Al Hamra Golf Club next week. I still don’t quite believe that I’ll be competing on the G4D Tour – it hasn’t sunk in my mind yet that I’ll be playing.

How familiar are you with Al Hamra Golf Club?

I’ve been doing some research online and found a hole guide and course map. I’m really looking forward to arriving and taking on the difficult test the course has to offer.

I believe your girlfriend will be your caddie next week, how much are you looking forward to sharing your first G4D Tour start with her?

She comes with me to tournaments when she can and is more of a companion than a caddie. She’s very proud of me and was also there when I won the tournament in the UK – it’s beautiful to share these events and the emotion with her.

How important is to for disabled players to get the chance shine in the spotlight on the G4D Tour?

I think the G4D Tour events are so important for EDGA players. It’s a dream to be able to get the opportunity to play in these kinds of tournaments and to experience what professionals do each week.

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