A series from Golf Ireland bringing you the stories from some of the most interesting golfers and personalities across golf in Ireland.

Words by Darragh Small 

Sarah Kerrigan made her way to Palmerstown for Chip&Chat this week. It was her fourth time attending Golf Ireland’s Women’s Social Golf Community.

The 29-year-old was born with a congenital defect where her left arm finishes at her elbow and she wears a prosthetist leg.

She thrives on the inclusivity provided by Chip&Chat, and when she heard that her friend and Golf Ireland High Performance Coordinator, Sara Rose Shelly, was organising the event, it made up her mind.

“I just always really look forward to it,” said Kerrigan. 

“I find sometimes, especially when you do have a disability, you aren’t really sure what you are getting into. With the best will in the world, a lot of things will be advertised as inclusive and accessible and they might not necessarily be.

“That is a big part of the reason why I have gone back many times. Michelle and Mary, the PGA pros, have been so sound, genuinely so sound and so much craic. And they don’t treat me like I’m any different to anyone else.

“When it is advertised as all abilities it genuinely is. And I think, just like the atmosphere and the approach that Golf Ireland is taking to this initiative, they just really do themselves justice in fulfilling the brief.

“I just really like going back. I always learn something new. I never feel different or less because I don’t have as much experience.”

Sarah's story

It has been a long journey to get to this point – where her confidence knows no bounds and she can plan for a life with a bright future alongside her boyfriend Alan and dog Bella.

Talking to her now it’s difficult to think that she was once a more shy and introverted type, and she faced some difficult formative years in school.

However, it was there that Kerrigan made a lifelong friend and someone that would make a lasting impact on her psyche going forward.

“Louise Ryan was my PE teacher,” said Kerrigan.

“She was one of the main influences that got me into sport. She used to take me one-on-one after school and train me in discus, javelin and shotput, would bring me to the gym and boxing.

“I didn’t get on that well in school, I didn’t have that many friends. I never really fit in. She probably would have been one of the main friends I had, even one of the closest people to me for many years.

“I am out of school for more than ten years now but she is one of best friends. She always inspires me to get up, get out and get active and drive myself on and be the best version of myself I can be, inside and outside of sports.”

RTE’s Big Life Fix

Last March, Kerrigan starred on RTE’s Big Life Fix after her former teacher put in an application for her to appear on the show.

“It was one day, two years after she put the application in. We were out swimming and we went for breakfast. She was like, Sarah have you heard of this show? I actually hadn’t. She said I have put an application in and the producers want to talk to you,” said Kerrigan.

Kerrigan did the rounds of interviews with the producers and they eventually decided that they would make her a ‘fix’ to go over her prosthetic leg that she could use in the sea. It was essentially a wet suit for her leg.

“The saltwater had just corroded it and this was basically to prevent that,” said Kerrigan.

“It was also really dodgy, if I was going in at Sandycove, I walk down the steps as far as I can, to where the steps meet the sea. I have to take my leg off, squat to the ground and then bum my way in after that.

“Coming out I would have to try and get myself to stand, balance and wait for someone else to get my leg. It is a balancing act.”

She held a viewing party at The Goat pub in Goatstown and that acted as almost a culmination of the long journey to get there.

Kerrigan was joined by the friends she had picked up since her school days and emotion was high as RTE charted the amazing journey through Kerrigan getting her fix and being able to safely negotiate a sea swim without the fear of injury.

A focus on a more inclusive future for everyone

The Deansgrange native is a different person these days as she divides her time around three jobs, all focused on a more accessible and inclusive future for everyone in the community.

She works as an event coordinator with Kinia, a project coordinator with Surpassport and she will occasionally help out with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Sports Partnership.

Meanwhile, her latest venture involved the first showcase of the Able Active app in the Glencullen Adventure Park as part of the Dublin Mountains Active Family Night. This app maps out inclusive outdoor facilities and amenities which is something she is incredibly passionate about.

Kerrigan also maintains her hectic social life while sport is always front and centre and it was through that that she met her friend Shelly. They were both studying Sports and Exercise Management at the time.

And while her friend plans out the latest Chip&Chat event, Kerrigan will be in attendance looking to sharpen her skills.

“I am really keen on anything outdoors, to be honest,” said Kerrigan.

“I really love sea swimming, I love hiking. I have given nearly every sport a whirl at some point in my life, I did hockey when I was in school. I did discus and javelin for a few years as well. I love going out for walks, stand-up paddle boarding. I have given everything a whirl, surfing, kayaking, canoeing. 

“But I would really encourage other women, other people with disabilities or anyone who is new to golf to come and try Chip&Chat too. I really do think this is an incredible initiative. The approach that Michelle and Mary take, no one treats me differently.

“Up there no one looks at me, a very comfortable environment to go into. It is a safe space to learn and be vulnerable and be open. Without hesitation I would definitely recommend it.

“Even if you haven’t tried golf before or are anxious around trying something new I would have no hesitation promoting this initiative because it has just been great.”

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