Mike Jones had a serious motoring collision while commuting to work on his motorbike. He’s now a golfer who, in his own words, “happens to have a disability” and plays on the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) tour.

Interview by Tom Jamison

Was there a specific moment when you decided to get back to golf, having played before your accident?
I saw a video of a guy playing golf on one leg. Manuel De Los Santos is a disabled golfer. I watched it and I thought, ‘If he’s doing that, why can’t I?’ At that moment I went: ‘That’s it, I’m ready now, this is what I want to do’. I started researching it. It was just that change in attitude and how I felt so uplifted; from being in the depths of despair and a really dark place. I didn’t know I could feel happy again. That was a turning point while I was in hospital.

Let’s talk about the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA). Lots of people won’t have heard of them…
I was a golfer for 20 years before my accident and I didn’t even know disabled golf or organisations that support disabled golfers existed. I started with the Welsh Disabled Golf Association, that was my first taste of disabled golf and then I heard about an EDGA event and I said ‘I’m going to try to enter one’. I was still on crutches and a prosthetic. It was in Scotland and I won the event, then I won the Welsh Disabled Open as well within 18 months of losing my leg. 

You’ve got to give back. You can’t just take things for granted so I try to help EDGA out as much as I can in promoting what they do and they’ve got organisations involved and governing bodies in golf now worldwide. We made a film called The Mulligan, which highlights six individuals and was broadcast to 138 million homes.     

EDGA’s suddenly gained popularity with golf’s European Tour heavily supporting us.  Momentum is growing beyond us. All you can do is try to put a positive image out there and show how good it can be for disabled people.

There are so many opportunities out there for disabled people to play golf because it’s one of the few sports where the ball is static, it never moves; not like in wheelchair basketball say, where you have to be dynamic, or wheelchair football and so on. It doesn’t move, it just stays there. So, you can find a way to hit it. We’ve got a guy with no arms and double prosthetics who plays. We’ve got double leg amputees, we’ve got people with scoliosis, we’ve got people with cerebral palsy and with multiple sclerosis. We’ve got all these varying disabilities and we all play golf, and when we play golf, none of us see our disabilities.

As a former ‘able bodied golfer’ you’ll know how frustrating golf can be, though it sounds like the sport has been refreshed for you…
I’m a much, much better golfer now than I was when I had a lower golfing handicap. Because I’ve gone through that learning process. I got quite good very quickly when I first started playing, years ago but I didn’t enjoy that thrill of getting better. So, it was as though everything was reset; it’s given me an opportunity to learn again and that’s how I approached it. I’m really going to enjoy this process, I’m really going to try to get what I can out of it, keep that same attitude that got me here in the first place, which is work hard, practise, and try      to do the right things. My attitude is different now; I don’t beat myself up so much. Mistakes become less important and they don’t seem to matter as much and I focus more on the positives.

Are you happy with participation or do you harbour ambitions in golf?
I play off 7.5 now. I have been as low as 2.5, when the new world golf handicap system came in. Because of coronavirus, I haven’t really had the chance to compete properly since I’ve had the microprocessor leg. So I’m still in that process of getting better. I’ve had mixed results this season where I’ve shot some really good scores, but I’ve shot some high scores as well so I’m still trying to find that consistency. But when it comes to competition, I love nothing more. When I was playing golf before, playing matches was all about winning. Now whenever people in EDGA play with me, I’ll always encourage them and always applaud them when they hit a good shot. I always have fun and play with a smile on my face – we end up having a good day. We want to show a good score but it’s not life or death.

Is there’s a perception problem with golf? It’s an individual sport and yet, at the same time, you get other things from it…
It’s one of the best sports for your wellbeing. You’re outside, you’re getting a reasonable amount of exercise. 

I played a practise round with Bask Ryan, who is a wheelchair player, and Manuel De Los Santos, the guy who inspired me in hospital. He plays on crutches, because he doesn’t wear a prosthetic and Bask is in his paramobile that allows him to stand up, even though he’s paralysed. None of us, all the way around, talk about our disability, because we don’t need to, we’re there talking about the golf – so we’re exactly the same as able bodied golfers, we talk about the same things and we do the same things. Golf is such a great sport because of the handicap system that means we can all play together and compete together. 

EDGA also raises money for disability golf projects…
The money raised goes into grassroots development, research projects, event organisation and awareness building. We try to engage with people in our local community, either at clinics, limb centres or physio units. We’ve got equipment that we could take along and try to engage other people to start playing the golf as an initial first step, all the way up to the elite in our sport – and some of our disabled players have turned professional now and when they play European events we help financially, to get them there, because they’re all over the world. 

We understand where that support needs to go. I look at the elite golfers and think they’re opening doors for us. The events they play in are raising awareness of disabled golf and slowly that support filters down and we start having events for the other players, not just those with world rankings. So, it’s a slow process but I can only see it getting bigger and bigger.

For more information about EDGA, visit: www.edgagolf.com and www.edgagolf.tv