Golf club drives out adopted boy in family match

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL STREETER

A decision by a golf club to ban a 13-year-old boy from competing in a family event because he is adopted could cause the teenager distress and damage his self-esteem, experts warned yesterday.

Laurie Briggs and his adoptive mother were barred from the annual family foursomes event at Burhill Golf Club, near Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, after a complaint that he was not a blood relative.

His mother Audrey Briggs, a former Welsh golfing champion, and her husband Laurie, who live in West Kirby, Cheshire, were then informed by the club that the event was only open to natural sons and daughters. Mrs Briggs said: "I am very upset about the whole thing and we are hoping that the club will change its mind."

Laurie was adopted at the age of three months by the Briggs from a Brazilian mother who wanted her child adopted abroad. He is a keen sportsman, playing cricket, football and his main love, golf. He knows of the adoption but regards Mrs Briggs as his mother.

The British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering said they were "disappointed" by the club's action, and warned that it was potentially damaging because adopted children were particularly prone to feelings of rejection and low self-esteem.

A spokeswoman, Leigh Chambers, added: "Instances such as this can reinforce those feelings and single the children out as being different. This can be stressful and upsetting to all concerned as well as insulting to the adoptive parents who are providing their children with a loving home."

Mrs Briggs and her son had reached the third round of the family foursomes event, but then another competitor complained that Laurie should not be allowed to take part.

The club secretary, Dick Richards, wrote to the Briggs saying that the conditions of entry for the competition stated it was open to only mother and fathers with natural sons and daughters. The letter said: "On the entry form you received you will see that step-children are not permitted and it is my error that adopted children did not feature on the form; this will be corrected for next year."

In a further letter, the club captain said: "Your deep disappointment touches me greatly but this event has always operated with the qualification that family pairs must be blood relations. I know that this can be hard to accept in circumstances such as yours."

Ray Burniston, national secretary of the Association of Golf Club Secretaries, said: "Golf clubs run their own competitions and are able to set their own rules, which people must accept ... Burhill is a good club, but I hope that they clarify their rules, as it seems that they caused Mrs Briggs and Laurie considerable discomfort."

Burhill Golf Club said: "We are not able to comment at the moment. The secretary is away on holiday until next Monday and the club captain is not available."

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