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Kenny Powell of North Foreland Golf Club back playing again – despite suffering two spinal strokes – as thousands are raised for ParaGolfer Buggy

When Kenny Powell suffered the first of two spinal strokes, leading to him being hospitalised for almost a year, he feared he might never play golf again.

A previous North Foreland Golf Club champion, he first got involved in the sport aged 12.

Kenny Powell using his ParaGolfer Buggy
Kenny Powell using his ParaGolfer Buggy

Now, thanks to the support of TaylorMade Golf, North Foreland and a new set of clubs designed for him to use in conjunction with his ParaGolfer Buggy - as well as people who helped raise thousands of pounds last year for his specialist equipment - 65-year-old Powell is back playing once more.

On using his ParaGolfer Buggy, based at North Foreland in Broadstairs, he said: “Obviously, it has health and safety aspects to it.

“You have got to be strapped in and my knees are held in place, and I’ve got a strap which is held across my chest as a seatbelt sort of thing.

“I remember the first time I had a go in it. I was a bit wary of going up in the air because I hadn’t done it for such a long time. I didn’t realise how tall I was!

“It’s enabled me to have a new lease of life and do something I’ve loved for so many years.

Jerry Buckley, Henry Leo, Kenny Powell and North Foreland Golf Club head professional Darren Parris
Jerry Buckley, Henry Leo, Kenny Powell and North Foreland Golf Club head professional Darren Parris

“I didn’t play for two-and-a-half years when I was in hospital and then had to do the rehabilitation as well. Then, obviously, I had to wait to get the ParaGolfer.

“So it was quite a feat on the Saturday morning when I got up and hit my first shot at North Foreland.”

Some of Powell’s tougher days came at Queen Mary’s Hospital in London two years ago.

“I was in hospital for 10 months which was during Covid times,” he explained. “I didn’t have any visitors or stuff like that.

Kenny Powell with the winning team at North Foreland's Kenny’s Golf Day in June
Kenny Powell with the winning team at North Foreland's Kenny’s Golf Day in June

“When I was told towards the latter part that I’d never walk again, I was quite upset, thinking ‘Crikey, I’ll never be able to play golf again!’. But I had some sessions up at the hospital I was in, Queen Mary’s in Roehampton, with psychologists and that sort of thing.

“They mentioned there is a Disabled Golf Society and people do play golf after getting paralysis. That awakened my thoughts, although I thought ‘I’m not going to bother at the moment’.

“Once I got home and I started to get into a routine, I thought ‘Why not?’. I started investigating it and a friend of mine said ‘Why don’t we go for a ParaGolfer [Buggy] and do a GoFundMe page, and see if we can get any support?’.

“They’re quite an expensive item. They’re about £25,000 because you can imagine the engineering that goes into it and the hydraulics which picks you up and puts you in a golf-standing position.

“It has to go up and down so many times that it needs to be a very robust piece of equipment.”

North Foreland's Kenny Powell with Henry Leo, a TaylorMade experimental representative
North Foreland's Kenny Powell with Henry Leo, a TaylorMade experimental representative

Raising that total seemed a challenge but the £25,000 target – and more – was raised inside months.

Powell said: “We set up a GoFundMe page this time last year. By Christmas Day, I had the last donation to make it up to £30,000.

“It progressed from there and we got in contact with the company in the UK, which is called Motors. They said it would be about 12-15 weeks, so we put one on order.

“I went up to The Shire Golf Club, north Barnet, to try a demo of it and just see if I could do it and liked it. A couple of my good friends from North Foreland took me to The Shire.

“We met a man up there from The Golf Trust called Cae Menai-Davis. They had two demo ones. We tried it and it was a bit of a revelation!

North Foreland's Kenny Powell using his ParaGolfer Buggy
North Foreland's Kenny Powell using his ParaGolfer Buggy

“It was like starting golf all over again. I had played to a fairly good standard before - but now, I’m trying to hit the golf ball with just my arms only.

“But I managed to hit it and, after an hour’s session, I was hitting it okay. Then we went up for another two demonstrations in the following months and, each time, I got a little bit better.

“The fund started to build and I started to get my hopes and aspirations up that this could be for me.

“In May, the ParaGolfer was delivered by Motors. We now house it in the golf club itself and I have a trailer so, if I want to play somewhere, then we can get it onto the trailer.”

More than another £5,000 was raised by North Foreland at their Kenny’s Golf Day - which TaylorMade sponsored the prizes for - held last month.

Powell, now living in a bungalow in Minster, is trying to get out multiple times a week but concedes doing so is tough.

“I’m just, really, getting into it now,” noted Powell, who explained a member from Prince’s Golf Club has tested out the ParaGolfer for herself.

“I’m hoping to play twice a week. You do get extremely tired after going in the ParaGolfer because it’s up and down.

“But it’s good for you, as well, because you’re spreading the circulation.

“The problem with me is the nerve-endings are not married up so that the brain can send signals to the lower extremities of the body to enable me to walk.

“So the more I can do it, you never know in the future. There might even be a little bit of feeling come back.”

Powell loved playing at The Shire in London and would relish the opportunity to play at other courses where he can.

“There’s golf clubs all over Kent and further,” he said.

“I’ve been up to The Shire and played up there in a disabled competition. The Shire is fantastic.

“It’s the only Seve Ballesteros-designed course in the UK. It’s an amazing place.

“But there’s a lot of amazing places golf-wise I’d like to go to and, luckily, my friends are in a position to help me out.”

At first glance, it might not even be apparent Powell is being supported on the course - such is the level of technology and innovation which has gone into the equipment he uses.

He explained: “What it does is it raises you up to the golf position. So I’m sitting down in the buggy and, when I go to hit a shot, on the control panel, I put it into the mode to raise me up and it raises me up in the air.

“That, obviously, allows me to swing because you can’t swing from the position of sitting down. It raises you up to take a swing of the golf club.

“There are pictures of me standing. I’m, obviously, in the machine.

“But unless you’d noticed that, then you wouldn’t know.”

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