'In many ways golf has saved my life'

Five years ago Dylan Baines was told that he would never likely walk again and would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life - now he is winning prestigious golf tournaments. The Welshman was in the back of a van when it crashed, nobody else was hurt, but Baines was left paralysed from the neck down for six weeks.

“The first three weeks were worse for my family than me, I was on painkillers and did not really know. Then when I came round it was the worst time of my life. That is not something you want to be told at 22 but I never believed them, I did everything I could, luckily my body agreed with me and I got to where I am now. My right side is pretty much fine, but I cannot feel much on my left side," explains Baines.

“I was in Heath Hospital for six weeks and the Rookwood for two and a half months, having physio every day. Though I have recovered quite well, I still have paralysis on the left side, my left hand and left foot are paralysed, my left arm and left leg do not work at all well and my knee gets hyperextended.

While in the Morello clinic in Newport he saw a poster about a leg amputee who was treated there and went on to win the Spanish and Scottish EDGA Opens. He was put in touch with Mike Jones who took him to the range and gave him some tips and Jones was by Baines' side when he won the the nett category at the Algarve Open
at the European Disability Golf Association's final event of the year.

“It was my first event playing in the nett division, I managed a fourth in France and a second in Ireland in strokeplay for higher handicaps, my handicap came down and I qualified for the final event in Portugal. I had a good first round and then the nerves kicked in in the second round because I was leading. But then I played the back nine in three under my handicap and that was crucial.

“I only found out after the round that I was all square with my French playing partner playing the 18th. I holed a putt for a par and he had a double-bogey, so I had an inkling I had won."

In terms of the bigger picture golf has given Baines, who is now looking to turn his handicap of 17 into single figures next year, a huge lift.

“I do not want to make it sound dramatic, but in many ways golf has saved my life. If I did not have golf, then I do not know what mental state I would be in. In the last three years it has been massive for me going out playing with friends and my Dad, just getting away from everything, something to fill the void. I use a training aid on my left hand to strap it to the club and keep it stable. Then I use my right hand and arm to guide the club and create power in my swing.

“I found out recently that I have not been using my good leg in my golf swing, so I have started shifting my weight to the right a bit more, using momentum to go onto my left leg. After hitting the ball I do stumble or fall sometimes. I played golf my whole life but never took it as seriously as I have in the last year. I hit the ball a lot further and was a better player before, but I am getting there slowly."