Muscat: The Al Mouj Golf Club at The Wave, Muscat,held its annual Golf Fore Autism charity tournament on the 10th of November to raise awareness about autism in the Sultanate.
The tournament was sponsored, in cooperation with the Association for Early Intervention for Children with Disabilities in Oman.
Now in its third year, the tournament was begun by Al Mouj’s golf course superintendent Steve Johnson, who has been in Oman for six years.
“We hope to raise about OMR14,000 for Autism Awareness this time. We have 16 corporate teams participating, and every team donate done thousand Rials to compete, although some of them preferred to donate items.
“Shangri-La, the Ritz Carlton and the Chedi all have teams here. Muscat Duty Free and HSBC have also sent teams to compete,” he said.
Although the tournament is dedicated towards a good cause, for Johnson and his wife, Kylie, it is also a more personal project.
“My eldest son, Lachlan, was six years old and had not hit any of his tell-tale development signs of early childhood,” said Johnson.
“We had him enrolled in preschool and we realised very quickly that he wasn’t progressing with his peers.
“We found out at that stage that there was very little available to us in Oman. We went back to Australia on holiday and the people over there quickly evaluated him and told us he had Sensory Processing Disorder, which is on the autism spectrum.
“He doesn’t know how to control his senses,” Johnson explained. “If you are walking down a dark alley and are startled by a cat, you might get scared, but you will realise what it is and calm down, but he doesn’t have the facility to calm down. We’re very fortunate that he is developing through it, but he does have his own challenges.”
On returning to Oman, Johnson realised he had to do something to raise awareness about autism in the region. Later, the Association for Early Intervention for Children with Disabilities, were in touch with the authorities and organised the tournament on his behalf.
Present at Golf Fore Autism were Barka Shahbal Al Bakry, the association’s Vice President, and Sabah Mohammed Al Bahlani, the organisation’s CEO.
“Something like Golf Fore Autism is great because it brings awareness to a cause, such as autism,” said Al Bakry, who is also the national representative for the International Association for Volunteer Efforts.
“There are more than 3,000 children with autism in Oman. We need to raise as much awareness as possible about this,” she added. “Last year, we had specialists from the New England Autism Centre in Abu Dhabi conduct a workshop in both English and Arabic, and it was attended by about 150 people. At the moment, we don’t have many specialists in Oman to address autism, so we need to raise funds to bring people from abroad.”
“In the first year of this event, we brought in people from Autism Awareness Australia to conduct a workshop,” added Johnson. “It was great to see men, especially Omani men, come forward and talk about the problems they’d experienced, because people in their families have autism.”
A single email sent by Johnson requesting memorabilia to be auctioned off to raise funds was met with 18 autographed flags from Adam Scott, the winner of the 2015 Masters Tournament, and Dany Willet, winner of this year’s Masters.
More memorabilia poured in from golfers Tom Watson and Jon Daly, while Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman, Graham McDowell and Henrik Stenson sent him an autographed golfing bag.
Also, Champion golfer Rory McIlroy sent a replica golf club and signed shirt, while more was sent by Padraig Harrington, Kegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson.
Other prizes include return business-class flights to Dubai with flydubai and two season tickets to the DP World Tour Championships Final at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 17, while signed jerseys from football clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers are also up for grabs.
“The response of the public has been fantastic,” said Johnson. “When we first started out, it was really difficult to get teams to come and participate, but now we’ve got people calling us up to be part of this.
“I am really happy with the response we’ve received for this and it feels great to give back to the community,” added Johnson.