150 – Lachlan Wood 

Lachlan Wood tees off at the Australian All Abilities Championship, Sydney

Lachlan Wood does not do things by halves, good or bad: “I can be a little bit obsessive,” says the 32 year-old Australian. He could be accused of that in a negative way when he threw away all the hard hours of becoming a fine golfer in his early twenties, at a point where he hated the game.   

To be fair Lachlan, or Lachie to his mates, faced mitigating circumstances in battling a traumatic injury and its aftermath. He can recall even now the smell of petrol in the smashed up car as he lay trapped as a 16-year-old, but that story is now being replaced by an altogether better one.

Obsessive behaviour can also help some people to survive. Ten years on from quitting golf Lachlan had practised, played and practised hard again, and there he was in December 2023 winning a major international tournament – the Australian All Abilities Championship; and on that day he would have gladly carried on playing and playing, hole after hole. Even after earning the victory he didn’t want it to end, such was the joy he was feeling through golf again.

Just like those rounds when he’d been so enthusiastic as a teenager. 

When growing up near Melbourne in Victoria, at first he was sports-mad, playing everything. “I remember my Mum having to talk to me one night as the back of our station wagon was full of kit, every night of the week there was a different sport we were going to,” says Lachlan. “She said you’ve just got to pick one.”

Photo: Getty Images

He started golf at about 12 after being first introduced to the game by his Dad, Warren. His best mate James Marchesani was a single figure handicap by the age of 11, who has since become a professional player, but at first James struggled to convince his friends about the game.

“We used to think golf was the worst sport ever. And then James is like, no, you’ve got to try it. We’d go to his house after school and he had a little par three in the backyard, a 60-metre hole with a green and a bunker, everything built by his Dad. That’s what got me trying it. There was a golf course down the road [Safety Beach Golf Club], so I’d ride my bike up there and have a hit after school.”

When Lachie was 15 he had earned a handicap of three to finally match James for the first time. The boys won tournaments on the same weekend: James the competition at their home club of Rosebud GC, and Lachlan winning the competition at The National Golf Club nearby. The pair’s results were recorded in their local newspaper; Lachlan chose to cut out the page with scissors and keep it. He smiles and laughs when he tells the stories of him and James growing up in golf, while painting a picture of how he likes and respects fellow golfers who are prepared to put in the hard work. 

Hard-grafting Aussie tour players Adam Scott and Aaron Baddeley were the ones to follow and Lachlan wanted to make it as a professional himself. At 16, he signed up as an apprentice at Rosebud, “going at it full on”: he planned to practise there every day around his shifts for two years in order to qualify as a PGA professional at 18. It was all there in his mind. 

One evening, Lachlan was sitting in the backseat of a car full of young lads, just driving around as many teenagers do. A couple of the boys were dropped off and Lachlan joined the driver in the front. On a two-lane main road on the edge of the city, the driver lost control and the car hit a roadside pole and went flying, tumbling over around five times before coming to rest.

“I remember the accident. It felt like five minutes when the car was crashing. When it hit the pole it sounded like a grenade had gone off and it went pitch black. I got sprayed in the face with glass, my eardrums felt like they had burst and then it went dead quiet for a second, and then a really loud bang and I’d get sprayed in the face with glass again. Five times and it felt like eternity between each time.”

When Lachie tells the story he looks at you right in the eye and tells it as if it had just happened, with total clarity.

“I thought I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead,” he continues. “Each time it went smash, smash, smash. When it stopped, I wasn’t sure if I was dead or alive until I heard someone ask ‘Everyone alright, everyone alright?’ I didn’t feel any pain at the time. I opened my eyes to this shattered car and I didn’t know up, down, left, right. I undid my seatbelt and then all of a sudden I was just upside down looking up at my legs, and then I couldn’t see because it was night.”

Lachlan continues: “It was an old car. I could smell petrol as well. I was yelling out for help and trying to claw through the windscreen and then someone tried to kick the windscreen in, and I don’t remember much after that.” 

A team from the State Emergency Service cut Lachlan out of the car. The work in the operating theatre resulted in Lachlan’s left leg being held together by 14 screws and a metal plate, now several centimetres shorter than his right leg. He has faced around 40 surgeries since the crash, six in the last five years or so. His back is permanently scarred where two muscles were taken to graft into the repair work on his shattered left leg. 

A 16 year-old doesn’t hear every grisly detail for their own sake, though Lachie’s Mum, Meg, would learn more in the corridor from the surgeons. How they would take muscles from his back to remake the left leg so that maybe he could keep it, help him to play golf again. But he was told a bone had smashed to pieces “like a dropped Easter egg”. 

Twelve months from the accident he was still in a wheelchair, before 12 months on crutches. It would be two years before he could put a shoe on his damaged left foot again. Lachie is now unable to move the foot or ankle in a conventional way. A special compression sock must be worn to assist with swelling and protect the delicate grafts in the leg. To compound matters surgeons learned he was left with a complicated and dangerous infection between the metal and bone in his leg which the medics leave alone, as stimulation could make it thrive and endanger him further. 

Meg Wood was so worried about her son Lachie that she sacrificed her growing mobile hairdressing business to be at home to help him; a fortunate move as when he came out of hospital he would be joined by his older brother Bradley who, living out in Indonesia having started his own clothing and surf business, had crashed his scooter in a horrific accident of his own, tearing many of the nerves in his neck and shoulders and breaking his own leg. The pair, and Bradley’s twin Matthew, are ever grateful to their Mum and Dad for their love and support and were delighted Meg managed to build up her hairdressing business again. 

As soon as Lachlan could put his left foot down on the floor he was gently hitting balls in the back yard, the first time for just 30 seconds before the foot felt like it was on fire. A couple of weeks later he could put it down for two minutes. He purchased a little golf net on Ebay and set it up in the yard, wheeled his chair up to it, stood to the ball with his crutches and hit a shot, before sitting back down for a rest and then repeating the process. His Dad bought him a little motorised one-seat scooter so he could shoot round to Rosebud Golf Club and try some practice. 

After weeks of intense effort, a high point was his putting together a score of 75, hitting nice low draws off the tee, nudging irons to the green and chipping and putting like a Pro. But the pain of playing was a constant, and the recovery time after any long session became demoralising. Lachlan maintained that desire to go full tilt at things, lacking a sense of moderation or patience. He entered tournaments, and despite an epic fight to get back to a two handicap over months of work, he could see how he was falling behind the pack of his fellow young players, who he knew he should be beating. The pain was assuaged by taking lots of painkillers but instead of being positive about making remarkable strides to get back to health and to be able to play golf well again, Lachlan became angry with the game, until when aged just 21, in his words he “completely gave it away”. He couldn’t even bear to watch golf on TV.

“I ended up going down a bad path of drinking and drugs and stuff like that, hanging out with some bad people,” he says. “I got a bit depressed; anything I could do to take my mind off what had happened or what had been taken away from me, and that went on for three or four years.”

His brother Bradley had the brainwave of taking Lachlan out of himself by the two lads volunteering for the very organisation that had helped save him from the smashed up car six years earlier, the State Emergency Service. Here, Lachlan put everything he had into the role and even volunteered to give presentations to young people applying for their road licence, on the dangers of driving recklessly.

“It was also really rewarding to share what had happened to me and try and help a few people. By doing that, I turned my life around, got my health back and looked after myself. 

“I was trying to get as healthy and as fit as possible. I’ve always been a bit of an obsessive person. Whatever I did, I overdid it, whether it was drinking or going to the gym, I always pushed it too much, and I still do it now with golf.”

When trying to qualify for the Metropolitan Fire Service to gain a regular wage alongside his SES volunteering, Lachlan was required to pass fitness tests including running. He pushed it all too far again, resulting in tearing inner muscles, bleeding internally and passing blood in his urine – the setback causing him to miss the next intake for firefighters. 

It was during a restive holiday in Indonesia that Lachlan realised just how good a steady high temperature was for his body. He thus left behind the cooler off-season in Melbourne, instead moving house to the more consistent heat of Queensland on the east coast, settling in the affordable area of Hervey Bay thanks to a bus driver’s good financial tip. 

Fortunately, he succeeded in getting his partner Harriet to move up there with him. Lachie had recently met Harriet in Melbourne at a Bikram Yoga class; she was finishing her university degree to become a nurse (she now works in the emergency department at Hervey Bay). “I remember on our first date I told her I’m moving to Queensland, maybe in a month, could be in six, I’m not sure. But she didn’t run away; she stayed to finish her degree and then moved up here a year later and has been putting up with me, or looking after me, ever since.” 

This time watching the play, with EDGA President Tony Bennett

In a bid to make new friends and relax, one day he considered playing some golf. At Hervey Bay GC, a friendly member called Michael Pascoe took him under his wing. Michael had watched the Australian All Abilities event in 2020 and said that if he qualified he would be his caddie. Lachlan decided to look into qualifying for his PGA licence again and this time, he was going to do it right (he has since become a coach at Hervey Bay and currently coaches Monday to Thursday as he trains on the Pathway Programme for his PGA of Australia qualification). 

Lachlan playing in the first G4D Open at Woburn, England

Lachlan had heard of the EDGA Podcast series ‘Tough Love and Second Chances’, and every Monday on the way to PGA trainee matches he would play one in his car. He listened to them over six months and then one day in December 2022, he heard the recorded words of Christian Hamilton, the ever-calm and super-positive Senior Manager of Programs & Inclusion for Golf Australia. An innovator and a highly encouraging voice, Christian’s description of Golf Australia’s inclusive approach to supporting golfers with a disability struck a chord. Lachie emailed Christian and learned how he could enter the all abilitiesevents as they are called in Australia.

Lachlan (right) greets England’s Kipp Popert, current World No:1, at The Belfry during the British Masters in 2023. Photo: Getty Images

For Lachlan the impact was immediate. “They sort of give you a place to belong in, and the people understand that golf is hard! It offered me a new pathway to be competitive but still enjoy it, and at the same time, you can’t get frustrated with what affects you. There’s always someone that’s got it worse, especially at those big events, there’s always someone there – they may not be the best golfer – but they’re having the best day because they’re just happy to be there, get out of the house, and play. So it really gives you a different perspective.”

Avoiding the trees on the challenging Duchess Course, Woburn

The World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD) offers the players the means to rise up the meritocracy and for some, qualify for the major international series – the G4D Tour – staged by the DP World Tour and EDGA, which last year (2023) included nine tournaments around the world, played as far afield as Europe, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Australia. Lachlan would qualify for three in the calendar year, including the G4D Tour @ Betfred British Masters at The Belfry, England, in June, the aforementioned Australian All Abilities Championship in Sydney (part of the Australian Open), while the first would be his most challenging because of the many hours of travel to get to England and the cold weather on arrival – The G4D Open at Woburn, staged by The R&A and DP World Tour, supported by EDGA.  

It led to a tough opening round but the total of his next two rounds over Woburn’s challenging Duchess Course would only be bettered by World No: 1 Kipp Popert of England and eventual winner, Ireland’s Brendan Lawlor. Lachlan finished eighth and he realised he could compete happily with the top five G4D players in the world (at the time of writing he is Ranked seventh), while sharing a deep respect for how they overcome their challenges. 

Lachlan working well with caddie and great friend Mike Pascoe at the Australian Open

He tells a story about he and Italian player Tommaso Perrino (World Ranked eighth), who has a similar long-term infection in his leg following a motor scooter accident in his youth. 

“We travelled together from the Australian Open to Florida for the World Champions Cup, and that’s where we leaned on each other’s shoulders. We had one good leg each, so we worked it out. His [injury] is on his right, mine’s on my left, and we had to walk every airport side-by-side, two kilometres I reckon. That’s how I got close to Tommaso, a very good guy to know!”

The ISPS HANDA Australian All Abilities Championship would prove to be very special Lachlan says, played out in front of crowds of home spectators. G4D Tour events are staged on the same course, in the same week as the event for the famous professional players, the golfers sharing the practice area and Players’ room. The television people and international media roll up to cover the action. His family and many friends followed the tournament on TV, a certain Michael Pascoe was his caddie as promised, while his old school mate James was actually in the main field of professionals. The pair ended up in the lunch room eating together and catching up, laughing at just how good the course was and playing together again.

“I was hitting balls on the driving range and Adam Scott teed it up next to me and I was up against the fence on the left side. There were probably 300 people who walked up and started watching, every single shot. Adam was right next to me. It was a surreal feeling.”

Lachlan would go on to beat Kipp Popert, Brendan Lawlor, Tommaso Perrino and others by three clear shots, and his rounds of 71, 72 and 70 also finished with a birdie to end on Par for the course, a further achievement. 

“If someone had asked, would you play a fourth round, I would have jumped at the opportunity even after being three shots ahead. It was so enjoyable and I had full control of my golf ball all day, every day. It didn’t feel like it was finishing. When I finished on the 18th, it just didn’t feel like it was done. I was more than happy to keep going.” 

Alongside the G4D events, Lachlan entered the competitive professional adidas PGA Pro-Am Series in Australia last year, where he beat established professionals to win the Tin Can Bay Pro-Am in July (shooting a six-under par 66) and finished tied-first in the Belle Property Bulimba Pro-Am in August. 

Following on from his AAAC victory, in February 2024 he travelled to Africa and secured second place in the G4D Tour Magical Kenya Open; he says he remains hugely grateful to all at the G4D Tour (EDGA and European Tour Group) for their support so that he and his fellow players can travel to, and compete in events.   

Photo: Getty Images

As we were speaking, Lachlan had recently received notification that he had qualified for a new, landmark G4D Tour event in the U.S., the G4D Tour @ CJ Cup Byron Nelson in Texas. Lachlan will be teeing it up on April 29-30 and understands the opportunities for the first G4D Tour event on American soil.  

“It’s massive, it feels like another major event on the calendar. To go up in front of the PGA Tour, the fans and the people of America. To do it, and do it well, that would be great… to show that this is great for golf, to say, bring us [G4D players] back, create more events. And then you’re going to get more people in, you’re going to inspire more people to play.”

Going at it full tilt as ever, Lachlan was shortly about to travel to Moonah Links in Victoria, which holds the PGA Tour of Australasia Qualifying School. He dreams of earning his full professional playing badge and enter events like the Australian Open, the New Zealand Open and more.  

Lachie says: “I’d love to get full status on that main tour and show the golfers with disability that if we work hard enough, on a good day we can beat them [the tour professionals].” 

The car crash and Lachlan’s obsessiveness in the gym have left scars that mean he could never play full time, all year-round. But he has already come so far after first looking to match his friend James as a 12 year-old new player. 

“James has come up to Queensland and played a couple of pro-ams with me. I haven’t said it to him yet, but I haven’t beaten him; he doesn’t know that I’m trying to tip him up and I’m waiting for that day when we’re on the same scoreboard and I’m above him. That will be cool.” 

Lachlan with his Australian Open trophy. Photo: PGA Australia/Gregg Porteous

He will no doubt cut out the newspaper clipping when this happens. Golf is the centrepiece of an ongoing story for Lachie, his partner Harriet and his family. It feels like a story that isn’t replacing – but is certainly redefining – the earlier narrative around the accident. This story now feels fresh, a brand new chapter, and is a great reflection of its evolving central character. From debilitating injury and depression on the fringes, to becoming a genuine local hero: first on the roads and then on the golf links; who plays his golf with a smile, looks everyone in the eye, and is sure to inspire many others to join in. Something of a leader perhaps.

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The airport amigos: Lachie and his new friend Tommaso (left) on the G4D Tour

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