There is plenty of evidence that golf can help restore mental health, but one player has declared that “in many ways golf saved my life.”
Dylan Baines was just 22 when, in 2017, he was involved in a road accident that left him with a broken neck and paralysed from the neck down. In an interview with the BBC (opens in new tab), the Welshman explained how he fought back from the injury to not only walk again but win a tournament.
He said: “Golf came to me at exactly the right time. About two years after my accident, I was really struggling with my mental health. I couldn’t move anything. One of the first things I asked the surgeon was ‘will I ever walk again?’. He just said no, basically. It’s like your world’s ending to be honest. I had just turned 22 - I was absolutely devastated. I understand they have got to tell you as it is. But I don’t think ever I truly believed him. Luckily my body agreed with me.”
Baines described the “first glimmer of hope” as he began to recover from his devastating injury. He said: “My big toe on my right leg was the first thing I could move. I just went crazy. Slowly, more and more started to come back on my right side. Then my left side, slowly. Not as much has come back [on the left], unfortunately, but here I am walking round, and I can’t believe it, to be honest.”
Not surprisingly, trips to the physio have been a key part of Baines’ rehabilitation. At one of those sessions, he saw a poster featuring a leg amputee Mike Jones – a winner of EDGA (European Disabled Golf Association) tournaments. That inspired Baines, a keen sportsman before the accident, to head down a similar route. He said: “My physio put us in contact. Mike took me then to France, to my first event, and I have loved it ever since.”
He made an immediate impact at the tournament, finishing fourth playing in the Stableford scoring category before following that up with a runner-up position at July’s Irish Open. However, that was just the start. With a handicap down to 17.1 he became eligible for the net score division of last November’s Algarve Open in Portugal, which he won.
But how does Baines play while paralysed down the left-hand side? According to Wales Golf’s championship manager Christian Askins, he has a modified way of playing. Askins told the BBC: “He is able to play golf under the modified rules of golf, which mean he can anchor the club in his left side and hold it with his right arm.”
The results have certainly been impressive, but the 27-year-old is not finished there. Next, he intends to play the Scottish Open at St Andrews in April with his dad, Keith, on the bag. Baines said: “We’ll see how that goes. We have both always wanted to go to St Andrews so we couldn’t miss this one. It’s a bucket-list moment.”
Regardless of what the future holds on the course, Baines’ story is surely one to add to the list of inspiring disabled golf stories. He has already set himself another target, though - lowering his handicap to 7.5 to secure eligibility to the EDGA’s gross score division.
Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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