In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car Germany’s Allen John – a runner-up at last year’s Porsche European Open – gives an insight into life as a deaf golfer.
I am profoundly deaf and have had to rely on hearing aids since I was two years old. When I was first diagnosed with hearing loss I only had around five per cent of my hearing left, but over the years hearing aids have improved dramatically and I now have up to 80 per cent hearing. There are still quite a few things that I can’t hear and if I don’t want to hear something, I can always turn them off too! Having a disability has actually made me more confident about myself, because I didn’t let other people dictate how I felt about my condition. I know I have a disability but it’s nothing I’m afraid of – I try to be as open about it as possible, and I’m trying to be a role model for those with similar conditions, to tell them anything is possible and nothing can hold you back.
It is really tough at times to be a deaf golfer, though. Because I can’t distinguish between the different sounds the golf ball makes have to rely purely on feeling – which is unusual. If you have a new driver or a new club, some people say they can hear the difference, from how the club is moving in the wind or things like that. Ultimately, though, I don’t care. As I have been forced to rely purely on feeling I think it has made me a better golfer.
I made my name in Germany because I played in the best team and golf club in the country, Golf Club St. Leon-Rot. I wanted to use my name and my popularity to help raise awareness for Deaf Golf by playing in events for deaf golfers, as at the moment we don’t get as much attention as normal athletes. I even won the gold medal in the Deaflympics, which was a really cool experience as they play your national anthem and you’re so proud to represent your country – I still get Goosebumps whenever I think about it. Every time I have had success – whether becoming a Deaf World Champion, in the Deaflympics or representing Germany in the Eisenhower Trophy or performing well in this event – I just try to soak everything in as much as possible.
I have so many good memories from last year – some of the best of my life. What really sticks out was walking down 18, seeing all the fans in the grandstand. There were so many people following me around all day, but on the last hole it was really overwhelming. The European Tour have a video of it which I have watched again and again! That feeling of having a standing ovation was amazing – and it felt unreal being able to hear it. My hearing aid can be like a microphone at times and pick up static, but on this occasion the sound came through clearly and that was really special.
I had to take a four-year break away from professional golf after a serious injury. I went to see the doctor after feeling pain in my pubic bone, and after being diagnosed as having severe inflammation I was told to just wait it out by doctors. At that point, in 2013, I decided to call time on my pro career as I wasn’t prepared to just wait around, so I decided to start working as a golf coach. Long story short I really missed it, and two years after that I was back hitting golf balls and became really determined to make it back, as deep down I knew I had the potential and knew I was forced to quit through injury rather than not having the ability. I kept working and working then eventually – after the best year of my career last season – decided to try it all again and turned pro for the second time.
Overall this season has been okay, but it’s only the beginning. I would have liked to have played more – I missed the cut at the Final Stage of Qualifying School so wasn’t able to get too many starts – but I’ve had some good experience on the Challenge Tour. I have played a lot on the Pro Golf Tour and I am currently third in their Order of Merit, which has given me a lot of confidence that I can compete at a pro level. I have a great team – a very supporting girlfriend and family – and I have a clear vision for the future. I would love to make the German Olympic team for 2020, but my main aim is to become the first deaf golfer to win on the European Tour. I don’t want to stop there, I want to play every season here and win as often as I can.
You can be aggressive about golf, you can be tense, but at the end of the day golf is just a game and it’s not life and death. Sometimes you can get wrapped up too much in that tension, but overall you just have to try and get as much out of it as you can. Obviously, I want to play well this week, but you can’t force it. I’m going to go out there – try and remember what happened last year – and give it my all again.