June 16, 2023

Courtney with his golf club watching where his golf ball will land

When Courtney Ratana is hitting golf balls on the green anything seems possible.

“I want to go to the Special Olympics,” he says. “I want to be the next Tiger Woods.”

And thanks to the good sorts at the Manawatu Golf Club – and a surprise gift – he’s well on his way.

Courtney revealed an early interest in golf only a few months ago when he was walking with Choices New Zealand Life Coach Leander Tyacke. Leander is a representative golfer and they got to discussing the sport.

“Court mentioned he used to play golf with his dad and that he really liked it,” says Leander. “So I took him down to the Pro Shop at Manawatu Golf Club one morning and they let us smack a few balls around.”

It wasn’t long before Courtney was hooked and after a while his enthusiasm was noticed at the club. He was invited to join the club’s volunteer men’s group, which meets every Tuesday morning in all weather to repair divots,rake bunkers and generally help the greenkeepers. They finish off their hard work with plenty of coffee and sausage rolls.

Courtney gets himself to the golf course every Tuesday and enjoys the camaraderie. “I’ve made a lot of new friends,” he says. “Wayne is my best friend.”

Wayne is part of the men’s group and often takes Courtney out on the course. The greenkeepers have their own golf tournament and Courtney is invited along to play nine holes.

Golfing can be an expensive pursuit with club memberships and golf clubs priced into the thousands. However, Manawatu Golf Club General Manager James Lovegrove saw how focused Courtney was and presented him with a complimentary restricted junior membership. And things were to change dramatically for Courtney due to the generosity of one of its members.

“There was this one day where the golf club flag flew at half-mast,” Leander says. “We found out that one of our members, Greg, had died. It turns out he’d left his golf clubs, trundler, golfing gloves, jacket and golfing shoes to Courtney.

“There was a handing over ceremony. Greg’s nephew and family had come over from Scotland and formally presented Court with all this gear. I had to walk out because I cried.”

The gear is very important to Courtney, so he has a safe place at the club to store his golf clubs and he takes his golf shoes home every day to clean them.

It’s been just over six months since Courtney first chatted to Leander about golf. But he is not content to stay still. “That’s our next move,” says Leander. “How to get Court to the next Special Olympics and back.”

Now that Courtney has the gear, the club support and the drive(both on and off the course), it seems like the obvious next move.