Father's praise for disability sport group
A DAD has paid tribute to a disabled sports organisation for the "confidence boost" it has given his adult son.
David McLeod has spoken about the way his son Garry has embraced the wider world after joining Highland Disability Golf.
The 39-year-old overcame his fear of solo travel to attend practise sessions in Inverness and competitions across Great Britain.
And 6ft 6in Garry reached a pinnacle of success when he won a gold medal at the organisation's 40th Anniversary Special Olympics in Stirling last year.
Dad David and mum Maureen, with whom Garry lives at Trentham Street, Helmsdale, were overjoyed at his triumph. And so too was Garry who wore his medal round his neck for some weeks afterwards.
When Garry was young, his parents were told that he was a "slow learner" and also that he had no coordination and would never ride a bike or play sports such as golf or tennis.
But the former Helmsdale Primary and Golspie High School pupil has gone on to prove the medics wrong.
His prowess at golf was spotted as a child by his grandfather when the two would play on the Helmsdale course.
"My father said he had real potential," said Mr McLeod,
"But he was too full of nonsense and carry-on at that time!"
Garry, who works as a part-time village officer for Highland Council, is well known and popular in his community and a real "character".
His dad said: "He does the streets and the public conveniences and directs people every day! It suits him down to the ground."
He is a regular in the village's hostelries and is at social gatherings – although he does not drink and instead goes for the "craic".
He is mad keen on his bike and also on lorries – he has a large model lorry collection – and is known by every driver of Caithness haulier D Steven & Son. Two of the drivers recently stopped to help him out when they saw him at the side of the road with a puncture on his bike.
But Garry refused point blank to travel further afield and initially strongly resisted attempts by family friend Graham Grant, a local plumber, to get him to attend disability golf in Inverness.
"He was frightened of being on his own in a train and it took a lot of persuasion before we finally got him to go," said Mr McLeod.
But eventually Garry began taking the 2pm train from Helmsdale to attend practise sessions in Inverness once a week from March to October, arriving home at 11pm with fellow "Helmie" Jim Kelly, who provided a lift.
And since these early days he has blossomed, attending competitions across Scotland and also at Bath and Sheffield and winning a number of trophies. His brother Kevin, who lives in Inverness, is a huge support and has often accompanied him on away trips.
At Stirling, Garry won the division two tournament with a total score of 127 from rounds of 66 and 61.
"We find it unbelievable – he has changed completely and will go anywhere. He is now the furthest travelled of us all!" said Mr McLeod.
"We are very grateful for the care and support Highland Disability Sport has shown Garry. They have helped him enormously."
Highland Disability Golf coach Ronnie Mitchell said: "Garry is a pleasure to know. The dedication he has shown is just fantastic."