Sevenoaks golfer Kipp Popert says disability won't stop dreams of Masters win
Tap to watch video report by ITV Meridian's Joe Coshan from Wildernesse Golf Club
A golfer from Sevenoaks in Kent says he wants to become the first disabled golfer to win a major championship, like The Open or The Masters.
Kipp Popert was born with a form of cerebral palsy called spastic diplegia, which means the muscular movements in his legs are impaired.
Growing up, he’s had 10 major operations on his legs and feet, to try and reduce the pain and improve mobility. It meant re-adjusting and re-learning his swing after every operation - but it didn’t stop him.
The 24-year-old is currently ranked the world no.1 disabled golfer after winning his fourth event of the season on the Golf for the Disabled World Tour at the Andalucia Masters in Spain.
Speaking to ITV Meridian, Kipp said: “The way I see it, is when I did get frustrated with my legs, when I did give them a slap or whatever and be like why are they not working, I’d snap out of it pretty quickly because the reality of it is, I could rub a genie bottle and I’ll still have cerebral palsy so for me my brains always just clicked to sort of you can’t change that so focus on what you can change.”
Despite spending much of his teenage years in hospital and with physios, Kipp said each operation made him more hungry to improve his golf game.
"It’s just a sport I've always loved because I think you need your legs a little bit, so it’s a sport where I couldn’t hide."
Kipp first picked up a golf club aged three, when his dad bought him a plastic set, which he used to stop him from falling over.
But very quickly, his father Rick realised Kipp was using the clubs for more than just keeping his balance and noticed his smooth swing.
"He kept nudging me to go and ask mum to see if we could go to the driving range and I just enjoyed spending time with him.
"I’m very competitive but I also had three siblings, so those four hours on the course were an opportunity to spend some quality time with him and then I just fell in love with golf."
Kipp became a member at Wildernesse Golf Club in Sevenoaks and relished the competition growing up.
"If I was playing somebody who was more able that me, I saw that as an awesome opportunity to beat them and get better."
His rise to world no.1 came last year when he shot a bogey-free six-under-par 66 at St Andrews to win the European Disabled Golf Association’s Hero Open, which is part of the European Tour.
Kipp’s fierce determination, coupled with his positive mindset, has allowed him to set the target of winning more major tournaments, like the Masters or the PGA Championship against able-bodied players.
"I want to be recognised as one of the highest over-achievers in sport, I think that would be pretty cool. In five years time I would like to have won multiple times in professional events and probably be known as one of the world’s best golfers with a disability and without, and winning a major would be lovely and I truly believe I could do that."
And if, or when, he does, Kipp hopes to use any new found fame and fortune to grow disability sports.
“I care about the opportunities for people with disabilities to get into sport, because the reality of it is I don’t think that’s going to happen unless there’s more coverage.
"The more coverage we’re able to produce, the more people will see it and think ‘oh that’s a good sport to get my son or daughter involved in.
Kipp hopes his golf career can be a catalyst to help create more opportunities for people to get into disability sports
“For me the most important thing is to achieve my personal aims so that eventually I can help grow disability sports because I’ve had every opportunity and playing disability sport is expensive and there are people who aren’t as lucky as me so I want to be able to create a pathway to professional golf for people with a disability.
“Two years ago there were no academies, then there was two, then now we had four this year with about 20 kids, and I think that was pretty cool for myself because there was never a Disability Kent Golf Academy for me to join as a kid and to be able to show them that it’s an option, you never know what experience will carry someone through their life, it might not be golf, but it might give them a bit of a spark.”