Alex Fourie enjoys spending his free time on the fairways, but for much of this year his focus has been halfway around the world.
Fourie, 29, was born in Cherkasy Oblast in central Ukraine without his right arm due to what he thinks was radiation from the water his mother drank at aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Orphaned by birth, Fourie was adopted by South African missionaries when she was seven years old and grew up in Alabama. One of the first things he picked up in the United States was a golf club.
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More than 20 years later, the Knoxville-area golfer is using the game he loves to give back to kids in times of need.
Fourie will compete in the U.S. Adaptive Open, a championship for golfers with physical, visual and intellectual disabilities, beginning Monday at the Pinehurst No. 6 course in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
The 54-hole stroke play event features a 96-player course with golfers as young as 15 and as old as 80.
Fourie hopes to make it into the top 10, but his main goal is to raise awareness of Single Hand Golf, his charity which raises money to help move children from the same Cherkasy orphanage he was living in.
Financial support for Single Hand Golf has gone beyond Fourie’s childhood orphanage, reaching other orphanages in the area to help bring these children to safety. Since their launch in March, the t-shirt sales have raised more than $38,000, helping to relocate more than 300 orphans.
Media coverage of the conflict in Ukraine began to wane as the initial invasion dragged on, but Fourie maintained public interest in one-handed golf through transparency.
“I think we’ve been very vocal and very upfront about where the money is going,” Fourie said. “Being upfront and honest helped build rapport with people. Seeing pictures of orphans getting to safety is huge for people to know their money isn’t wasted.
Safety for the orphans means reaching the Romanian border to the west, several hundred kilometers away. Fourie said the ultimate goal is to find families overseas who are willing to adopt children.
Parties interested in adopting orphans have been numerous, some even in Tennessee, although the selection of families has required more careful consideration.
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“A lot of people reached out to me, it was really cool to see the outpouring of support for Ukraine,” Fourie said. “But you have to be very smart. There are a lot of people who want to adopt children from Ukraine, but not everyone can afford it. You have to be careful with people.”
Fourie’s charity work has yet to grow beyond his day job selling roofs for Litespeed Construction, but he hopes to one day turn to teaching golf and fundraising full-time.
In the meantime, he will continue to play in as many golf tournaments as his schedule allows with a mission to reach more needy children of the same fortune that brought him to his first tee.
Alberto Camargo is an athletic intern at the Knoxville News Sentinel. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @albaretoe.