Natascha uses NDIS supports to help her become Australia’s top ranked female golfer with disability

Published On: 10 February 2023Categories: NDIS, News, Stories
In just 5 years Brisbane teenager Natascha has gone from knowing “absolutely nothing” about golf to being Australia’s top ranked female golfer with disability.

The 15-year-old won the skills competition competing against several other countries at the Macau Golf Masters in 2019. Last year she played the Queensland Inclusive Championship and the inaugural South Australian Inclusive Championships where she was the net winner on both occasions.

Natascha also earned a gold medal at the Special Olympics (SO) National Games in Launceston in October 2022, securing her place in the SO World Games squad that will travel to Berlin to compete in June this year.

Such is Natascha’s golfing reputation and prowess, she was also invited to play in the Greg Norman Junior Masters Championships at the end of 2022.

The young golfer even has a global ranking, with the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD) ranking her 186th.

But Natascha’s future wasn’t always so bright. Her mum Kathleen admits she was deeply concerned about her daughter’s future when she failed to meet walking and talking milestones and became overly anxious in noisy areas.

“She was having a tough time at primary school because she had trouble communicating and was getting bullied terribly,” Kathleen said.

Around the age of 8, Natascha was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, Tourette syndrome, a genetic heart condition and a physical condition called ligamentous laxity, which affects her ankles and knees.

“It was very daunting when Tash got first diagnosed, I was anxious and had no idea what her future would be like,” Kathleen said.

Kathleen could not work full time because taking Natascha to therapies, psychologists, doctors’ appointments and paediatricians was a full-time job.

“Back then it cost a lot of money and I couldn’t work because all her appointments were during working hours. It was definitely hard during those first few years,” she said.

When the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) arrived in Queensland in 2018, Natascha’s paediatrician advised Kathleen to apply for it.

She did this successfully with help from Carers Queensland, Queensland’s largest NDIS Partner in the Community, which continues to support the family when required.

The NDIS funds Natascha’s psychologist, support workers and occupational therapist (OT). The Scheme also funds physiotherapy to help with her ligamentous laxity, with a focus on strengthening her ankles and her knee joints.

“Before the Scheme came along I had to give up on speech therapy after a while because it was so expensive. I also had to wean off her OT a little,” Kathleen said.

“But now thanks to the NDIS I'm able to get her all the supports she needs. Natascha’s quality of life has improved because of these supports.

“We do have days which are quite bad and days which are really, really fantastic, but you get through it. And Natascha’s milestones mean so much more.”

Natascha said since receiving NDIS supports she’s also noticed improvements in her strength and energy, saying she used to struggle to make it to the end of the 18th hole.

“I would start to lose all my energy and everything. Now I can actually get through and feel as though I could play like at least another three (holes) before I reach the 18th,” she said.

“My goal is just to take golf as far as I can really and raise as much awareness as I can around all abilities golf. I want to help more women to get into golf in general.”

Natascha first picked up a club at the age of 10 when her parents gave her the option of playing tennis or golf. The teen admits she knew “absolutely nothing” about golf was when she chose it.

“I did my first lesson and just fell in love with it, and the rest is pretty much history,” she said.

A student at Brisbane Adventist College, Natascha juggles school with up to 15 hours a week playing and practising golf.

“When Natascha started first playing golf a lot of people didn’t understand that you can actually play golf with a disability,” Kathleen said.

“It was a bit of a struggle to get acceptance and recognition. At one stage she was actually told she would only ever be a social golfer.”

But Natascha remained steadfast in her decision and said being told she couldn’t do it made her even more determined to prove everyone wrong.

“No matter what people say, just keep going for it. Just have fun. Play for you. Just don't give up and keep trying and trying,” she said.

After hearing the news she had been chosen to represent Australia in the SO World Games Berlin, Natascha said she felt “ecstatic”. At 15, she will also be one of the youngest athletes competing in the games.

“I was so happy at the time and excited. I was literally jumping up and down. I really have been working hard towards it,” she said.

Natascha already has plenty of allies in the golfing industry, including Golf Australia’s National Inclusion Manager and long-serving PGA professional Christian Hamilton.

“Christian came to the Launceston games and it was so nice because he actually presented Tascha with the gold medal,” Kathleen said.

“He has been fantastic in helping Natasha find her place. Golf Australia and Golf Queensland have really encouraged Natasha and that’s been a wonderful thing.”

Golf Australia also put the young golfer forward to receive an equipment sponsorship with Callaway Golf Company and since 2021 she’s been a Callaway Ambassador. This year Natascha has been nominated for the Channel 7 Young Achiever’s Award.

Natascha, who is working to raise $9000 to pay for her trip to Berlin, said she would do a “little bit of touristy stuff” while in Europe but ultimately, she is there to win.

“The moment I get on the golf course I will hopefully just watch everyone eat my dust,” she said.

Kathleen said it was “humbling” to see more sporting codes get on board with all abilities competitions and finally recognise that everyone can play a sport.

“For any child, whether they are neurotypical or have a disability, getting them into a sport is great for them, not just the socialising but for them to demonstrate their abilities and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment,” she said.

Natascha hopes to encourage other young women with disabilities to take part in the sport, particularly since golf is still more male dominated.

“Having a disability doesn’t hold you back, if you try hard enough, it can’t hold you back,” she said.

“You just have to keep working at it and eventually you’ll get there.”

Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS.

If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland can help you identify and link to options for support in your community.

You can also contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, cq.enquiries@ndis.gov.au, or sign up to our LAC Connect app here.