Central Coast hosts this year's Phoenix Cup for handicapped and disabled golfers from Europe and the U.S.

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Posted at 10:24 PM, Aug 26, 2023

From Aug. 28-30, Team USA and Team Europe will square off in a Ryder Cup/Solheim Cup format golf tournament in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara. The difference is this tournament features physically handicapped and disabled players from all over the globe.

Now in their 29th Phoenix Cup, this year Team Europe will get treated to beautiful courses on the central coast like Alisal Ranch in Buellton and Sandpiper Golf Course in Santa Barbara.

“We're going to show the Europeans some pretty incredible golf," Team USA member and former coordinator of the Phoenix Cup, Dan Aldrich said. Aldrich is president of the North American One-Armed Golfers Association.

“The courses that we're playing are really fantastic," Team Europe captain Kenny Morrison noted. "Sandpiper and Alisal Ranch are really top class.“ Morrison is a single-leg amputee.

At its core, it’s an inclusive event designed to encourage golfers with a physical handicap or disability that there is a place for them to play. Adaptive golf is nothing new but it's certainly become more popular over the past few years now in the second year of the USGA's Adaptive Open. Buellton's Chaz Bowker competed in both years as one of the top short stature players in the country.

“It's really for people that are struggling with some kind of physical disability in their life," Aldrich said. "The Phoenix Cup tells you, 'hey, from anywhere around the world, we'll have you out and give it a go'.”

The organizer of this year's event and long time PGA coach on the central coast, Bob Kotowski, also sees it as a chance for camaraderie among the adaptive athletes which in turns helps grow the event and awareness for adaptive golf.

“Behind the scenes, to see all the back stories and the friendships that are made and the connections that are made that will people will be continuing to mainstream this type of event,” Kotowski said.

Kotowski founded Olde School Golf and has been teaching golf in the area for 50 years in addition to his dedication in improving the game for blind and disabled golfers since 1992.

In that year, Kotowski started the Blind and Disabled Golf Program with a colleague and blind golfer, Howard Shaw, who has since passed away. Together, they helped create a guide to help those with a limitation still improve in the game.

“Just looking back, it's almost exponential how many different programs there are around the country," Kotowski said.

While this week's competition is about inclusivity and encouraging more handicapped and disabled people to take up golf, let it be known, at the end of the day it is still Team Europe versus Team USA.

“Oh, we want to kill each other, metaphorically," Aldrich said jokingly. "It's a competition.”

With all the strides made in the game to improve opportunities for adaptive golfers, the Phoenix Cup is just one of many to help bring about more access to the game.

“Golf is really one of the few games that we see that's like an equalizer," Morrison explained. "We're all handicapped, but also the golf handicap, it means that all different disabilities can play equally.”

For anyone wanting to get involved in more local tournaments or programs for adaptive golf, Kotowski's Olde School Golf on the central coast has tournaments and events year round. The United States Adaptive Golf Alliance ( is also a resource for more information on the ever-growing participation in the sport.