08 Dec 2019 | All Abilities |

All Abilities: Jones wins world stableford ranking

by Martin Blake

Josh Jones image
Josh Jones with his award at The Australian this week. Photo: ISPS Handa

Queenslander Josh Jones has an extraordinary golfing story. He is also the world stableford order of merit champion for golfers with a disability in 2019.

Jones, 27 who plays out of Pacific Golf Club in Brisbane, received an award at the #AusOpenGolf this week as he paid a visit to the Australian to watch the 12-person field in the Australian All Abilities Championship, presented by ISPS Handa.

He was not in the elite field here for the AAAC, but it inspired him to try to get there.

Jones, who plays off a 19 handicap, was the No. 1 player in the world stableford rankings, which is for players in the handicap range between 18 and 36, or as he put it, “the best of the worst, at the moment”.

His tale is a compelling argument for golf as a way of rehabilitating from serious accidents and injuries.

Five years ago, he was working at his job as a diesel fitter in the Dawson open cut mine, west of Rockhampton, when a dump truck tyre exploded next to where he was standing in the workshop. A close friend who was right beside him was killed instantly.

Jones himself was hurled across the workshop and ultimately lost his left arm, which was amputated a few weeks on. “It was a freak accident,” he said this week. “The tyres do let go a lot, but usually that happens when they’re not in the workshop. In this case we were working on the truck.

“Unfortunately, I remember most of it. I was conscious the whole time. I got blown back about 35 feet, they say. They found my hard hat 150 metres away in the bushes and it blew my clothes off.”

He spent two weeks in intensive care and when he regathered his thoughts, made the call to have his arm amputated. He had lost the bicep muscle in the accident, and the nerve damage was significant. It was never going to function properly again.

Jones was not a golfer; in fact, he’d never played. Then fate intervened. His brother Cole came home one day in 2016 with a set of clubs, announcing he intended to start playing, and he decided to join in with his brother at the local course.

“It was at a time when I was really low in the rehab, and I was angry. I thought: ‘Great, I can unleash some anger on the golf ball’. Then I realised when I was there playing, I wasn’t thinking about the accident, I was concentrating on trying to hit the ball.” Jones used clubs that were shortened and lighter for his purposes, admitting that when he started, he was “terrible”.

Ironically, he outlasted his brother quite comfortably. “I just said ‘I’m going to give it a try’. He lasted six months playing, and I’ve carried on. I absolutely love it.’’

Nowadays he hits an average 220 metres off the tee, and he can stretch his drives to 250 metres if he chooses. Off the course, he has started working as a commercial real estate salesman. His life has turned around. “It (golf) has done wonders for me,” he said. “I’d recommend it to anyone who’s had an accident and they want to get their mind off it.”

Golf Australia’s national inclusion manager Christian Hamilton said the significance of the award for Jones was that all abilities golf is much broader than people realise. “It’s not just about the elite competition. People of all handicaps can get involved,’’ said Hamilton.

As for Jones, he is on a mission. Down the track, he wants to play in the AAAC competition, but he needs to strip more from his handicap so that he can get into the world gross rankings. The ultimate, he says, would be the Paralympics. Golf is still pushing for inclusion into that particular sphere.

“I couldn’t have competed in this sport if I didn’t lose my arm,’’ he said. “I might have been an average hacker on the weekend. But this opens a new path that you never ever would have thought of. There’s Paralympics and everything else.’’

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