By Peter Owen
WHEN Lachlan Wood was 16, he was involved in a traffic accident so horrendous that it left him with 12 broken bones and a left leg shattered in 44 places.
He spent most of the next two years in and out of hospital, then another year in a wheelchair as doctors fought valiantly to save his leg.
They took tissue and muscles from his back and grafted them onto the leg to replace lost skin and flesh. Still, the bones in his leg would not heal, despite being held in place by a giant X-fix frame.
Indeed, it wasn’t until doctors became aware of a new treatment in Germany, which used ultrasonic waves to help bones knit, that Wood dared hope for something like a recovery. He received treatment for 40 days in a row before X-rays showed the bones were beginning to heal.
In all, Wood has undergone more than 40 operations – six since he moved to Queensland five years ago, including one in mid-July to burn the nerves out of his hips to ease relentless pain.
Through it all, he never lost hope that one day he might again be able to play golf to the level he’d done as a teenager, and perhaps even pursue his dream of becoming a professional golfer.
On Tuesday, July 3, at Tin Can Bay, on the Queensland coast west of Gympie, Lachlan Wood, now 32 and with a left leg 4cm shorter than his right, did the impossible.
He shot a remarkable round of golf – five birdies and an eagle in his six-under-par 66 – to become the first All Abilities-category player to win on the PGA pro-am series. It was a milestone performance for the gutsy golfer from Rosebud, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, who had shown great promise as a junior before a car, in which he was a passenger, hit a pole and rolled for 60 metres, leaving his dreams in tatters.
Now a third-year associate professional at Hervey Bay, on the Fraser Coast, Lachlan Wood is on his way – already one of the world’s highest ranked All-Abilities golfers, and now confident his game matches up with the best able-bodied professionals.
Before the Tin Can Bay event, Wood had just returned from the United Kingdom where he finished eighth in the G4D (Golf for Disabled) British Open at Woburn, and seventh in the G4D British Masters at The Belfry, in Birmingham.
That took him to 12th place in the G4D rankings, with high hopes he’ll earn playing rights on next year’s G4D Tour, which runs alongside the DP World Tour. He’s already won four All-Abilities events in Australia and New Zealand this year.
Despite his background, Wood receives no advantages when he’s playing in events like the Tin Can Bay Pro-Am. He was to walk the course like everyone else.
“Sometimes I’ll remind the organisers of my disability and ask to start from a tee that’s not too far away,” he said. “But that doesn’t always work, and I’ve sometimes had to walk 1.5 kilometres to my tee.”
He’s also a bit annoyed that he has to play the full 20 rounds in the compulsory Monday associates’ tournaments – despite living so far away from the capital city.
Associates living 300km from Brisbane, you see, are considered to live in a ‘remote’ area and need play only 10 rounds of tournament golf a year.
“I’m 288 km from Brisbane,” he said. “I’ve made applications – three times so far – for some sort of exemption. Each time it’s been knocked back, and they’ve asked me not to apply any more.
“It’s difficult for me to drive so far for these Monday events, and I have to sleep in my car as it’s too expensive to get accommodation every time I play,” he said. “It also takes me away from my other roles in the pro shop and from fulfilling my academic requirements as an associate.”
Wood moved to Queensland in 2018, believing the state’s warmer weather would hasten his recovery.
“I went to Bali for a friend’s birthday and realised that I wasn’t as sore. I could walk for a kilometre or two in my thongs and next morning I felt fine – I wasn’t in pain.
“It dawned on me that I needed the humidity. I needed heat.”
Firstly, he headed to Port Macquarie, on NSW’s Central Coast, but found the climate too cool. So he went to Cairns, but it was too hot. Then, like Goldilocks sampling the Three Bears’ porridge, he took the advice of a Cairns bus driver and found Hervey Bay to be just right.
Wood hasn’t given up hope of one day playing on the Australasian Tour, and is chasing starts on this year’s pro-am tour, where his status remains limited despite his Tin Can Bay win. But his immediate goals are the All-Abilities circuit and the G4D Tour.
He’s planning to return to Europe and perhaps tackle events like the G4D PGA Championship at Wentworth in September, and he’s bound to be a contender in the All Abilities Australian Open in Sydney in late November.
“Travelling and playing takes it out of me,” he concedes. “I’m still learning what I need to do and how to peak at the right time. I’ll keep on working hard on everything.”
He described his win at Tin Can Bay as a great thrill – and an example of just what a disabled golfer is capable of achieving.
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