12 Apr 2023 | All Abilities |

Prior's amputee champs triumph after 10 years

by Australian Golf Media

Stephen Prior Open image
Stephen Prior is the national champion again.

By Jim Tucker

Stephen Prior’s quest for an 11th title at the NSW Amputee Open in Nowra is on track now another cherished trophy is back in his keeping.

You wouldn’t be a member of Sydney’s Long Reef Golf Club without a love for a serving of wind with your golf.

A grooved game in the wind, with the three-quarter punch he has refined for such days, delivered him his first Australian Amputee Open in a decade to begin April.

Prior was a 10-stroke winner at Perth’s Wanneroo Golf Club where his tournament-low round of two-over-par 74 in the second round separated him from the field.

For Prior, 47, the victory has set him up nicely for his next goal at Nowra’s Worrigee Golf Club on May 6-7 when he’ll be defending his NSW title.

The surge of purpose through the three-marker's game can be traced to last December when he enjoyed the rare thrill of being part of an ISPS HANDA Australian Open week like no other.

Staging the Australian All Abilities Championship on the same stage as the men’s and women’s Australian Opens was a treat he still talks about.

“It was such a cool feeling being in the same locker room, putting on the same practice green and playing the same course at Victoria Golf Club,” Prior said.

“We weren’t just strapped on the end. We were made to feel part of the pros set-up.

“Golf Australia did an amazing job in putting that together.

“After the final round, I had a chat with (seasoned PGA Tour pro) John Senden, not for a few minutes but for a hour. Like I say, that week had so many benefits apart from just hitting golf shots.”

Prior didn’t bring his best game to that 12-strong event and he’s determined to earn another chance to show his best beside the invited international players.

“I want to keep up my ranking points to be among the four Aussies to get another chance,” Prior said.

Prior has resolved the issues he had with his prosthesis that week.

The prosthetic device he uses rolls on the back of the grip. Its design gives him a flexible wrist and “a reasonably firm feel like in a normal swing.”

A water skiing accident when he was 17 at Forster, north of Sydney, tore off the bottom half of his right arm when it was caught in the rope.

As a past President of Amputee Golf NSW, he encourages and nurtures players with a wisdom he took years to gain himself.

“There’s the obvious physical side but also the mental side,” Prior said.

“I lost my hand. I didn’t know any other amputees and didn’t really want to know other amputees,” Prior explained candidly.

“I was pushed along to play in my first amputees’ event because my thinking was ‘I’m not an elite golfer’.

“Along the way, I got the valuable feedback I needed but didn’t know I wanted.”

The urging of renowned amputee golfer Geoff Nicholas was a part of it.

Nicholas, from The Lakes Golf Club, came second to Prior at Wanneroo.

“It was a good week at Wanneroo with an unusual easterly wind blowing. It’s very rare you get a windless day at my club at Long Reef so the conditions were more comfortable for me than some others,” Prior said.

“I like a windy day to make it interesting.”

Prior’s 82-74-84 scoring in the 54-hole event included a fine second round that proved to be the final margin over Nicholas who shot 84 the same day.

Prior’s round of 74 started as nothing special until he punched an eight iron to 15cm from the pin on the 135m par three eighth.

He birdied the eighth and ninth and picked up another birdie in his back nine of one-under 35 to complete the best round of the championship.

“The 17 degree hybrid was the right club in my bag. Being able to play a punchy draw around 190m with a three-quarter swing was the shot that really worked for me that week.

“It was my first Australian title in 10 years. It was a very good feeling because it had definitely been a while."

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