Cameron Pollard’s story reinforces the value of All Abilities golf programs
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when Cameron Pollard barely left his room. A young man with serious medical conditions and an anxiety that made social excursions virtually intolerable, Pollard’s happy place was the golf course. Sawtell Golf Club, to be precise.
The course just south of Coffs Harbour on the NSW North Coast was Pollard’s sanctuary, a place where he was welcomed and felt safe. That feeling of peace has now extended to golf courses throughout Australia and given Pollard the confidence to move out of home and into a villa with his mate Jordan, who has an intellectual disability.
“I was stunned when he wanted to do that,” says Brendan Barnes, Sawtell’s PGA professional and the assistant coach (alongside Jeff Mansfield) of the NSW Special Olympics golf team.
Given his social and physical challenges, it came as something of a shock to Cameron’s parents, Kate and Scott Pollard.
It wasn’t simple. It took almost a year of planning before Cameron moved out of home in February 2021 and Kate is adamant his experience playing in – and winning – All Abilities championships throughout Australia has provided a sense of independence he may never have found without golf.
“It’s been an absolute game-changer,” Kate offers. “If it wasn’t for playing in events – whether it be All Abilities, Special Olympics or amateur events – and having that exposure to being independent and what that looks like, I can’t imagine we’d be where we are now.
“He has recognised that this is his life, his house and these are the things that need to happen if he is to live independently. I would never have thought we would be at that stage.”
Pollard’s sphere of influence extends far beyond his own duties as a paid member of Barnes’ pro shop staff and his progress as a golfer. Rubbing shoulders with golf superstars at the Australian Open and Presidents Cup and victories in Inclusive and All Abilities championships the past two years have made him a home-grown hero among the nine All Abilities golfers that Barnes also coaches.
His new-found independence has taken some of the pressure off his parents, and his coach even found love after being introduced to one of Kate’s co-workers at the NDIS, his passion for coaching reinvigorated by his involvement with All Abilities and Special Olympics golf.
“I’ll be perfectly honest, it reinvigorated me not only as a person but in the golf community as a golf professional,” Barnes adds. “It’s made my life more enjoyable. I’m enjoying my life as a club professional, too, because Sawtell Golf Club has embraced it and been very supportive of me coaching and going away and working with them.”
But of course, no one has been more positively influenced by his passion for golf than Cameron himself. Now 23, much of his childhood was spent in hospitals or in self-imposed isolation, a passion for golf developing an individual identity that at times appeared unlikely to emerge.
“It’s given him purpose in life,” Barnes reflects. “He feels that he has some direction, whereas before it was having a disability and unsure of what he was going to do with himself. It’s all of a sudden given him a bit of purpose.”
Concludes Kate Pollard: “I can see that this is his pathway and his journey. If we can turn it into some kind of golf career in whatever that looks like, that’s his journey.
“Because of the opportunities he has had through the All Abilities and through Christian [Hamilton, Golf Australia Programs and Inclusion Senior Manager] and the EDGA (formerly the European Disabled Golf Association), we can see a future.”
What more could any parent ask for?