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Golfers First Profiles

Every golfer has a story of the putt they holed, the chance they missed, and of the drive that was long and straight. Not every golfer, however, has a backstory that grabs one’s attention, that shows the human spirit and can fuel the can-do attitude that is inside every one of us.

The Golfers First Profiles came from a deep belief that everyone has a story, that is not only worth telling, but also worth sharing. Perhaps you or someone that you know is in need of a boost of inspiration or a signpost to what can be achieved.

Mike Jones Interview

‘Just’ Mike Jones, a golfer…

From a traumatic accident that could have killed him to walking again and winning golf tournaments, Mike Jones’s story is intrinsically linked with the sport he loves. “Golf saved my life”, is not a line you hear every day.

Listen to EDGA’s Tony Bennett chatting with Mike Jones

In October 2015, proud Welshman Mike Jones, an electrical engineer and single figure golfer, climbed astride his Yamaha MT09 Sports Tourer motorbike for the trip across the Severn Bridge from Cwmbran into England for a shift in Bristol. With a toot of his horn he said goodbye to wife Beth without a care in the world.

Four days later he would wake up in hospital in Swansea in severe pain and confusion. Mike has been told he nearly died at the scene of the accident and lost a lot of blood. A leg was badly crushed, his thighbone was rammed through his pelvis by the crash. These bones could be rebuilt in complicated operations but his lower left leg had to be amputated three days after the accident; the start of a long road that would include 22 hours on the surgeon’s table, six months of regular out-patient visits and a hip replacement as recently as last November. And even then it could have been far worse. His biker’s protective clothing may have saved his life as such was the injury, more exposure of the wound could easily have led to a fatal infection.

The super-keen sportsman, former footballer, a golfer who had been close to scratch (a 2 handicap), would later learn that he was still very much “just Mike” but right then, in a room on his own and desperate for sleep, all he could consider was his new identity as “Mike with a lost leg”.

He explains: “It was so traumatic. Your mind is whizzing at 100mph. I’m feeling my leg but it’s not there, a phantom sensation. I struggled with this so badly. They tried all different drugs with it. Nothing helped. I came very close in hospital to a breakdown. I remember one evening banging my fists on a tray, holding the buzzer and the nurse came in and said ‘What’s going on Mike?’ I don’t like asking anyone for anything and I was trying, but I lost it. I was screaming at the top of my voice, you either have to get me out of this room or give me something to put me to sleep… I thought I was going mad.”

Somehow Mike soldiered on.

A move to a ward with other guys in a similar condition helped, as they could talk and support each other with a bit of banter. The second telling element of his initial recovery came because Mike was holding on to his love of golf as a focus in this most difficult time. Could he ever play again?

He watched golf videos in his hospital bed and found clips from one golfer in particular, Manuel De Los Santos. De Los Santos hails from the Dominican Republic and lost his left leg in a traffic accident to destroy his dream of playing professional baseball in the US. He would not only later discover a new sport in golf but he would excel in it, as a fine striker of the ball which has seen him win trophies on the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) Tournament Series and become something of an emblem for EDGA and its players as to just what can be achieved.

Mike said: “I was obsessed with playing again. It saved my life. I really don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had golf as a focus, God knows what, I would have ended up in not a very nice place I think, so it literally saved my life.

“I watched videos of Manuel and heard him speak with such enthusiasm. You don’t often get the chance to reset your life but that was my opportunity there. That’s the attitude I want, I thought – I want the can-do attitude. Saying it and doing it is another thing, so when I am feeling a bit low or sorry for myself or ‘woe is me I’ve lost my leg’, I watch the video and it’s ‘right, just get on with it Mike, stop moaning about it’.”

Fast forward less than 18 months to February 2017 and Mike Jones is a long way from that hospital bed. He is actually teeing it up in an EDGA tournament in the sunshine in the Spanish Open, playing so well he won the Stableford trophy with two solid rounds off a new 19 handicap; while also meeting Manuel De Los Santos in the flesh and making a new friend.

“To actually meet Manuel in Spain and for him to speak to me like a real friend and give me advice and shake my hand, that’s the beauty of EDGA. And also Juan Postigo Arce [another top EDGA player] – you just get it, you just feel that positivity coming out of them towards you and that’s what I want to deliver to the people I play golf with. Manuel has been a big role model of mine in the way he approached his disability, and he told me, ‘don’t let your disability define you’. So I’m not Mike with a lost leg, I’m just Mike, and that is what’s really important.”

After his trauma and the surgery in 2015, Mike showed plenty of bravery as he learned to walk again as an out-patient with the help of physiotherapist Jo and staff at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff’s Artificial Limb and Appliance Centre, before later continuing his improvement under the expert care of staff at the nearby Morrello Clinic in Newport.

Mike said, smiling at the memory: “I was at the limb centre on my first visit and supposed to be holding onto the parallel bars but I was swinging my arms; all I was thinking of was ‘Can I swing a golf club?’ And Jo called out ‘What are you doing!’ They were in shock! Worried I was about to fall over. We all laughed about it. I remember taking my first steps with my mechanical knee which was a very strange sensation. I walked maybe three steps then.”

He adds: “I thought maybe I am slightly different, like Beth kept telling me. I found that positive attitude switch inside me, and you have to have a go. Don’t wait and dither thinking ‘Can I do it, should I do it’, go and do it!”

Only six months after the bike crash, Michael Overton from the Welsh Disabled Golf Association (WDGA) met up with Mike at Green Meadow Driving Range for Mike’s first return to hitting any sort of golf shots. He hit a succession of wedges that really impressed Overton who urged him to take part in a WDGA golf day only a month or so later at Peterstone Golf Club. Here, Mike met two new friends whose welcome and support would spur him on to great things in the year ahead.

Mike said: “I played with two guys, Richard Willis and Bill Savage and they were absolutely amazing with me. I was on crutches and really struggling to get in and out of the golf buggy. They’re both leg amputees and they helped me with my crutches and helped pick up clubs off the ground for me. I was off 24 [handicap] then and I only got 10 points [in Stableford scoring] but I was really pleased with 10 points! Afterwards I slept for two days I was so exhausted, my hip was so sore.”

From here, Mike’s golf improvement allied to his work on physical conditioning would be a revelation and is much talked about in EDGA circles today. Mike would win the Stableford in both the Welsh and Scottish Opens of 2016 before his hip replacement slowed him down for a spell. Supported by wife Beth, who has been a regular caddy, Mike has now become a leading player in EDGA tournaments culminating with his win in Spain this February. The organisation is backed by 23 national golf federations as it helps golfers with a disability to compete internationally as ‘Golfers First’, while allowing them to measure their progress in the Ranking for Golfers with a Disability (R4GD) supported by PING. The Ranking is relevant here because less than two years after the accident that nearly killed him, after thousands of golf balls hit on good days and bad, Mike, at the time of writing, is currently number one in the Nett Ranking, actually ahead of those friends Juan Postigo Arce and Manuel De Los Santos.

Today, now that Mike has won his toughest battle, he is keen to help others who are in need.

“The first thing for any person who is disabled or has suffered [other illnesses] or are struggling with a condition, golf can turn your life around. You don’t have to be a superstar, all you have to do is be able to hit a golf ball and putt a golf ball. You can go to a golf club and meet people. It’s all about not being isolated because when you have suffered a disability it’s quite easy to turn in on yourself and not communicate with others. So golf and golf for the disabled especially is a great forum for people to start communicating with each other and realise you’re not on your own. There are people out there who can help you, there are people who can turn your life around.

“I am always telling people you can do it, you can do it, you can do it. Come and play golf with us and make yourself healthy again.”

Mike was recently appointed as a Golf Development Wales (GDW) Inclusive Ambassador and he will be promoting inclusiveness in the sport, as well as assisting with events and meetings to promote GDW schemes and initiatives.

Zoe Thacker, GDW development officer, said: “Mike is a real inspiration and force for good to people with a disability. He constantly spreads the message that golf can be enjoyed by everyone.”

Mike says he is only looking ahead now, wishing to support other golfers while honing his own game to try to get back to single figures (he has been working with respected PGA coach Rob Moss). He remains hugely thankful for everyone who has backed him.

“The guys I’ve played with for 20 years have been amazing in the way they have supported me, and the guys with a disability have been like another level again. For example, EDGA player Mathieu Lebon (France), a fellow leg amputee, has been a very good friend while finding my way in the events, and Ian Halliwell of British Inclusive Golf has also been so generous with his support.

“Also, my golf club Woodlake Park GC has been fantastic, they support me no end and they have had a couple of collections for me to help me with travelling and tournament entries.

“The R&A has been brilliant; the Golf Union of Wales, GDW and my family have all helped me out, as has my best friend Gary Derraven who has encouraged me from the night of the accident until today.”

Mike knows that the injury has changed him in other ways. He admits to now being a “cry baby” and happy to open up his emotional side, who’ll sing Country & Western songs to Beth in the car (Josh Turner and Garth Brooks), while showing steely determination on both the golf course and in the gym as he gets better at golf and fitter and stronger. Just what you would expect from a “Welsh Dragon” who follows the nation’s footballers and rugby men with great passion.

Of all his supporters Mike reserves most praise for wife (and caddy!) Beth.

He said: “From the day of my accident Beth has been the rock and foundation of every part of my recovery and new life that has started since losing my leg. I would not be the man I am now without her help every day from when I wake until I put my head on the pillow at night. I love her more than life itself.”

Mike’s story is not too dissimilar from a number of the golfers involved with EDGA, who share a unique bond with each other along with certain characteristics: courage, fortitude, determination and often a sense of humour as they have not let their injuries or disabilities define them as people. Rather they have accepted these as a starting point of the second chapters in life and they compete in golf tournaments around Europe knowing their red numbers on the leaderboards are not just for them but also for the friends and family around them. They are all ‘Golfers First’, while Mike Jones is also – very much now – just Mike.

More about Mike Jones

Facebook @mikejonesgolf
www.golfdevelopmentwales.org

Interview with Mike Jones and EDGA’s Robert Moss after Mikes stunning performance at the Scottish Open 2016 – The Sidey Cup

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Charles-Henri Quélin

Charles-Henri Quélin played just one EDGA tournament in 2014, winning the EDGA Algarve Open at Vila Sol and finishing in 16th position on the 2014 ranking.

In this interview for EDGAGOLF.com, Charles Henri Quélin tells us how he started play, some of his highlights playing golf at a high level, how he enjoys playing in tournaments for golfers with disability and shares his advice for people with impairment wishing to start playing golf.

Five Minutes with Charles-Henri Quélin

by Tony Bennett, November 2014

I am Charles-Henri Quélin, I am from France, I live in Paris, my home club is Saint-Non-la-Bretèche where they used to have the Lancôme Trophy, so it’s quite famous. All the big names like Palmer, Jack Nicklaus all came.

I had the luck that my Father live on the golf course, so I start to play golf when I was young. I start to play right handed because I have a disabled with my right arm, it’s really shorter than my left arm. So Cécilia Mourgue d’Algue, she is very famous and she told me one day when I was very young, OK what’s your problem, with your left arm, with your right arm? So she say, so maybe should try to play left, because your left arm is really longer than your right arm, so it could be easier to play like this, instead of when you will grow up it will be really difficult. So I decide to change after many operations, like they tried to make it longer and finally I start again in left, so I keep my putting in right. And because I have been working my golf hard, I could be able to play for the National team [France], like with name like Grégory Havret, with kind of people like that for four years so. So now I just joined the, because I am 38 years old so I joined the disabled golfers for three years now. I still have some tournaments with valid golfers, but I really enjoy the spirit. I think that it’s amazing to see like people to play golf with big big handicaps, so I really have a good time, every time I play a tournament of disabled golfers it’s impressive.

I had the luck to play tournaments of golf like Open French Open, Lancôme Trophy or even the Open of Brasil, which is professional, but it’s nice to play these kind of tournaments because you see things that you can’t believe. So I really have a good time every time I play with all of those guys, it’s really good fun, and I like the spirit, everybody is like come on and they are putting everybody in the same, the love of golf you know, so it’s not because you have a problem of leg or, just having fun to play and it’s a game so your having fun, it’s good.

What is your best golfing highlight so far?

I would say, I have a very good souvenir of, well we finished third once in Italy in 2000 [1999]. I like to play golf by team you know, it’s really good fun, like the Ryder Cup, you can see the guys it’s so emotion. And we finished third the the European Championship and so it was really a good souvenir, a good souvenir. And I would say for my favourite golf course, I played one British Amateur in the North of Ireland in Royal County Down and it was a very good souvenir of this course, it was tough, I think that Simon Dyson won the qualifying, qualification and I think that it was Graham Storm who won the tournament this year.

What advice would you give to someone with an impairment who would like to start playing golf?

Well I would say that maybe to check on the website, it depends on what is the problem, and to compare his problem with a problem that a guy that is playing disabled golfer and how does he do, and it depends if the problem is with the legs or the arms, or I don’t know but I would say that there is still a solution. You have to find it, by yourself for sure, but you can have a look, how do they do. So perseverance and to believe in it, and I am sure that you can still, OK if you don’t have any arms it’s not easy, but if you can take the club, it’s OK, you will find a solution.

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Cedric Lescut

PGA of Belgium professional, Cedric Lescut was a stand out performer in the EDGA 2014 tournament schedule winning the 1st Category Order of Merit title.

In this interview for EDGAGOLF.com, Cedric tells us how he came back to golf after losing his right leg in a motor cycle accident, reveals the changes that he made, especially mentally, how he gives clinics to kids and helps them to get their life in perspective and shares his passion for all people to start playing golf regardless of their disability.

Six Minutes with Cedric Lescut

by Tony Bennett, November 2014

My name is Cedric Lescut. I am from Belgium. Um my home club in Belgium is L’Empereur, and my disability is right leg amputee.

How did you acquire your amputation?

By a motor bike accident, three years ago.

Were you a golfer before the accident?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was a professional golfer before. I kept my status. Now I’m back training for one year, coming back step by step now.

Has it been a difficult transition?

I stayed one year in the hospital and so this road was quite tough, yeah, then I have one year in the rehabilitation centre. This year I start back from the beginning with no expectation at all and I enjoy it much more now than before.

How quickly did your golf ability come back?

The first day, yeah. I went on one leg with steel metal on my other leg and um on the first day I made a birdie and I felt wow, I can still do it. So then I go with new stuff, new technique and I came back. I am striking the ball now better than before.

Did you have to make many adjustments to your technique?

I cannot say that, I discovered something totally new. I forgot everything I heard in the past and I came to my coach and we built something, which is different from other bodies because the principle was still the same, just the impact. Yeah, that’s it. Not that much no.

What is the biggest improvement that you have made?

Mentally yeah, no expectation. No, I have the luck to be alive to play golf, some people out there dying on the streets, have problems, then I am happy to live. I know that may be tomorrow it is over,  then I enjoy myself like, if I made a good shot, its good, if I made the bad shot it is also good, I try, I did my best and that’s it.

What does golf mean to you?

Life! Yeah life, Ah for me it is the ideal therapy for people having problems like we have but its life yeah.

What has been your best moment in golf?

The best moment in golf, ahhh when I was with my wife in Pebble Beach, I had the opportunity to play there last year and that was amazing you know you see the whales, the surfers, the dolphins there, you play an amazing course with lots of people around and you are with your family so thats it.

What kind of golf course gives you the most difficulty now?

Slope one, yeah. When you have some big slopes, uphill, downhill then that’s more tough more difficult, as for the rest its nothing, there is no one [type of] course. Yeah of course there are courses more difficult than others, but not that much.

You compete in PGA events, how do your fellow competitors accept you?

Yeah, they enjoy much. They see that even if you have a physical handicap that you are competing with them. I’m not the last on the ranking of the PGA Benelux, I’m not the first one, I average middle. Yeah, I think you know they see that even in fact what I like is that when we are playing together they are not complaining,  some guys used to complain before, there are not so many now. So thats good yeah, so I love it.

What advice would you give to someone with an impairment who wants to start to play golf?

Just do it, and believe it, its a fabulous sport, you don’t need a guy in front of you to do it, you can spend all your day to do it, you are outside. Even if you have one arm, two arms, one leg, two heads, fat, big, whatever you can, do it, so yeah I would recommend to do it. I think it’s the ideal therapy, to come back from a problem.

Do you enjoy playing in tournaments for golfers with disability?

Yeah, yeah, I have met a lot of new guys, I have new friends. I saw that, in fact it completely change my vision as a pro as before. Because we teach, I use to teach what we learned to teach, that the clubface has to be like this, 45 degrees to the hips and then and you see that maybe you have to review the way of teaching because as all the guys are doing here, everybody has some specifics and they are striking the balls like the best in the world.

You give some clinics for kids, how does this work?

I’m trying to make them understand that they are lucky to be in good shape and good health, to play golf and not to break their brain because they miss a putt or throw their clubs and just to enjoy you know. To realise that there are some other stuff that are more important than to miss a putt or put the ball in the trees, that’s what I’m trying to explain to them.

Did you have some inspirations when you came back to the sport?

Yeah with Manuel. I watched his video on YouTube yeah, he inspired me much. He is a really good guy, ah yeah he inspired me to do it, that it was possible to do it again.

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Golfers First Profiles

Every golfer has a story of the putt they holed, the chance they missed, and of the drive that was long and straight. Not every golfer, however, has a backstory that grabs one’s attention, that shows the human spirit and can fuel the can-do attitude that is inside every one of us.

The Golfers First Profiles came from a deep belief that everyone has a story, that is not only worth telling, but also worth sharing. Perhaps you or someone that you know is in need of a boost of inspiration or a signpost to what can be achieved.