Barkley wins Ottawa and District Matchplay championship
In 2016, Kurtis Barkley won the Ottawa and District Matchplay championship (city championship). Courtesy photo

CHESTERVILLE—Chesterville resident Kurtis Barkley is looking to join the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) tour for this upcoming season. Barkley was born with severe Rotatory Scoliosis Cervicothoracic Kyphoscoliosis secondary to Spondylothoracic Dysostosis which is a debilitating disease that affects the spine. Barkley has lived with chronic pain his whole life and was told he would not be able to do much about it. 

When Barkley was just three, he began swinging golf clubs and by the age of seven was driving the ball more than 100 yards. His dad, Rick Barkley, was a club champion at the Cedar Glen Golf Course in Boucks Hill three times and was a big part of why the younger Barkley took up the sport. His dad bought a driving range just east of Cedar Glen when Kurtis was just a little boy and as Rick said about his son, “he always had two buckets of balls and just swung away for hours on end. But the problem was he wouldn’t retrieve his balls!” 

Barkley wins 2018 OVGA
Kurtis Barkley won the 2018 OVGA championship and shared the victory with his dad, Rick. Moore photo

When Barkley turned seven he asked his dad if he could go play on the golf course with him. At the time, youth players had to be eight or older to be able to golf at Cedar Glen. The elder Barkley said “son if you can hit the ball three times over the 100-yard marker I will take [you] to the golf course.” About two days later, he yelled at his dad from around the house and said “dad watch this and he drove ball after ball after ball past the 100-yard marker.” he looked at his dad and said, “well, can I go now?” 

The Barkleys then moved to Australia for three years where he continued to improve his skill, having 11 months of the year on the golf course compared to Canada’s eight months.

Barkley started piling up wins as a Junior player and has been winning tournaments throughout Eastern Ontario eventually becoming the Cedar Glen club champion six times. Barkley has also won the Ottawa Valley Golf Association trophy in two out of the last three years and was ranked number one or number two out of over 125 golfers heading into the championships. Barkley said he has won around 45 different tournaments throughout his career.

Despite all of his success in golf, the pain he feels after a round was really intense and due to his condition he found it hard to even get sleep, as his spine does not move so even laying down does not bring relief. 

Barkley said he had been basically computer illiterate for the longest time but with the new cell phones and social media, he was able to find a disability golf association. The first one he found was in South Africa but he figured that was not a good fit for him. Upon further searching, he found the EDGA and became interested as Canada and the USA had no such association. 

The more he read about the tour, the more intrigued he got and started to inquire about the details to see if he would qualify. The USDGA in partnership with the EDGA held their first tournament in the US last season and are holding their second this season at the Independence Golf Club in Richmond Virginia from May 14 to 16.

For this event, Barkley will have to pay for his flight to Virginia and a tournament fee that includes hotel, meals, a practice round of golf, and 36 holes for match play and a shuttle to the course from the hotel.

This is what Barkley dreamed about since he was a kid–to join a tour and be ranked against other golfers with the same disability or to have a level playing field. So he filled out some online forms and sent them in and discovered just last Thursday they accepted him. Barkley was left stunned and didn’t know what to say but his partner, Marissa Imrie was so excited she jumped right out of bed. Barkley said it took a day for it to sink in that his dream was finally coming true.

There was a problem however, Barkley is on a fixed income which covers only his basic expenses. It is barely enough to survive. Barkley said if it wasn’t for his girlfriend (Imrie) and his family, he could not afford to live and would be homeless.

Imrie (who is an event planner) sprung into action on a fundraiser for Barkley that includes a dance at the Chesterville Legion on Sat., April 20. Imrie booked the hall the next day and began planning a big event to raise some funds for Barkley to at least get to the tournament in Virginia. 

At the fundraiser, Barkley will get into what it is like to live with his disability and explain some of the medical issues he has and how he has struggled throughout the years. Barkley also takes it personally when people talk about him saying stuff like, “why can’t he work?” “he can play golf but can’t get a job” or “he is not disabled!” He said his family and close friends know his true struggles but the general public and fellow golfers do not and he will give a speech at the fundraiser getting personal and emotional.

They are looking to the business community to help with sponsorship or to donate something for a silent auction at the fundraiser.

There are 13 events on the EDGA tour but Barkley has two of them in mind as he would like to participate in the Czech Disabled Golf Masters at the Golf Club Mstětice in Prague in the Czech Republic from June 28 to 30. The other tournament Barkley is eyeing is the Finnish Disabled Open that runs from July 29 to 31 in Finland. Be sure to check out Barkley’s Facebook page by searching Kurtis Barkley Golfer.