Golf: Guy Harrison defies odds to qualify for New Zealand Open

Australasia's best disabled golfers will make history at this year's 101st New Zealand Golf Open.

They will compete at the same tournament as the pros, in a separate all-abilities category.

The competition is the first of its kind, and will consist of players with a range of physical, intellectual and visual impairments.

The first New Zealander to qualify was 18-year-old Guy Harrison, who won this country's first rankings event at Napier's Maraenui Golf Club. 

The win gave him an automatic entry to the Open from February 27-March 1, a feat that's even more remarkable, considering what happened 15 years ago. 

"When I was two years old, I had a massive febrile convulsion or a seizure," Guy told Newshub.

"[It] caused me not to be able to use my hands or not able to walk anymore."

It was obviously a scary time for his parents, who were in the car with him when the seizure began.

"We had no idea what it was, so we rushed him to hospital and he basically died," said Guy's father, Keith Harrison. 

"So they [hospital staff] revived him, but that 5-10 minutes when he was gone was enough to cause brain damage and he's come out with cerebral palsy-like symptoms."

Keith said he feared his son might use a wheelchair for the rest of his life, but decided to take doctors' advice and encouraged Guy to be as active as he could. Being a PE teacher, Keith thought finding a sport would be helpful and golf came to mind.

That began with walking around on their local nine-hole golf course in Hawke's Bay and by the time Guy was five-years-old, he had played his first full round there.

He's since gone on to win the AIMS Games tournament, played at the national secondary schools' competition twice, captained his Napier Boys' High School's golf team and represented Hawke's Bay at this year's U19 interprovincial champs.

His New Zealand golf handicap is 8.6.

"I always think if one guy can do it, I can do it also," Guy said. "I always thought if this guy played a 36-hole competition, I should surely be able to do this too."

"I was just another golfer out there."

"I was just the guy with the funny walk," he joked.

Playing golf doesn't come without its challenges for Guy. After a long day on the course, his hands can start to shake, so he has to compose himself and wait for them to stop shaking, before he can hit.

Another is his swing. 

"How I swing normally is I stand back, and then I swing and walk through with it to generate that forward momentum, which is the key for me to keep my ball from going way right."

The Napier Boys' High prefect made things work for him and has never used those challenges as an excuse.

In fact, he's never used it as an excuse in life. Guy is on the Halberg Youth Council and was a silver medallist at the 2017 world junior para athletics championships.

But like the world para athletics championships, the all-abilities category means Guy can now compete with people on a par with him on the golf course.

"We wanted to create the category to celebrate inclusion and diversity in golf, " New Zealand Golf's participation and insights manager Thiem Nguyen told Newshub. 

"It will also be one of the first [occasions] in the world where we'll have a format such as we're presenting at the New Zealand Open this year."

The format will see 24 players play a 54-hole tournament on the same courses, on the same days and from the same tee boxes as the pros. The winner will also receive their trophy alongside the winner of the Open.

"I just can't believe it, just to go and rub shoulders with all those famous golfers, like Ryan Fox, would be such an awesome opportunity," Guy said.

Guy Harrison hopes it leads to more opportunities in the future and inspires Kiwi kids to follow in his footsteps.