Kevin Harmison, Britain’s No 1 disabled golfer, yesterday spoke of his “disappointment” with his sponsors, Sweetspot.
Harmison said: “All I have seen is around 20 nutrition bars and 30 packets of jelly beans and I was promised more than that.
“It is not the monetary value of the goods that matters, it is more being able to appreciate that somebody out there values disabled golf enough to lend players like me a bit of moral support.”
The uncle of former England fast bowler Stephen Harmison, Kevin plays with a foam-covered carbon fibre leg with a built-in shock absorber. An industrial accident nine years ago left his right leg amputated below the knee.
Earlier this year, he landed the biggest title of his career in winning the Balasa & Edga Open at De Vere Belton Woods in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
“There was no British Disabled Open this year so this was treated as the main event of the season”, said Harmison, 47, four times a runner-up in the event. Harmison can hold his own against full-bodied golfers in the Newcastle and District League with a played 12, won four, lost four, halved four record for the Newbiggin club in the 2013 season.
It was shortly before last year’s Paralympics that the two handicapper played in the pro-am at the Sweetspot Classic, a Europro Tour event at Longhirst Hall.
He said: “I am a gym instructor so I understand nutrition. You have to eat something to get you through a round of golf and I prefer energy bars on the way round to a bacon buttie before playing and I found the Sweetspot bars worked very well for me.
“So I asked them about sponsoring me more in hope than anticipation because disability in golf traditionally has had very little support.”
When Sweetspot agreed, their then managing director, Rob Mullen, said: “We are proud to have the opportunity to sponsor such an inspirational athlete. Kevin is a fantastic role model.”
Harmison, who lives in East Sleekburn, near Ashington, added: “Sweetspot offered me publicity through the Press and television, etc and opportunities to play in the UK and abroad, to play with them and the people that they sponsor.
“They were to give me their product – ie nutrition bars to use for myself and to promote while playing golf in tournaments – clothing with logos ie trousers, shirts and jumpers.
“The meeting I had with them last year was very promising, but I did not hear from them for a long while.
“So I phoned them and texted them a couple of times and I was told we would meet up, which has not materialised.
“When I won at Grantham in May, I let them know about that and they again said we would meet up soon. But I am still waiting.
“I feel very disappointed as Rob Mullen seemed a very enthusiastic person and I feel I have a lot to offer him. So maybe an explanation would be good, or at least just to let me know what the situation is as then maybe I could move on.”
Sweetspot are among brands owned by the Stocksfield-based NewLeaf Food Group. When The Journal asked for their reaction, we discovered Mullen resigned as managing director on November 1.
Mullen said he last spoke to Harmison around six months ago, claiming he was unaware of any problems.
NewLeaf director Peter Turill said: “We are sorry to hear of Kevin’s disappointment. Now that we know about it, we shall get in touch with Kevin to speak to him directly.”