It’s a statement that would seem to defy logic but for Englishman Glenn Ralph, a career threatening injury actually turned out to be one of the most positive incidents in his life as a professional golfer.
While on holiday in the paradise resort of Mauritius in the winter of 2007, Ralph broke his right tibia and fibula in a freak swimming pool accident – an injury that kept him out of the game for 14 months.
Doctors advised him that he might never play again but against the odds he returned at the start of the 2009 season with a revamped swing dictated by his rehabilitation.
A share of sixth place in The Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum represented a fine comeback but, after three more top 20 finishes, all of Ralph’s hard work paid off when he captured his maiden professional title in the Cleveland Golf/Srixon Scottish Senior Open at Fairmont St Andrews.
Ralph went on to finish fourth in the European Senior Tour Order of Merit behind the illustrious trio of Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam and Carl Mason and he attributes that magnificent achievement to his injury-induced swing change.
“I came back after the specialist said I’d never play again and even in Brunei I didn’t know right up until the Friday morning whether I was going to play or not,” said the 54 year old. “As we could use carts I thought I could develop a swing that had a shorter back swing and shorter follow through and play like that.
“That was how I played. I really hadn’t played any golf for 14 months before that but I went out there and played really nicely and just carried it on from there.
“The broken ankle really changed my swing. I’ve always been a bit of a reverse tilter in my swing when not playing well. I’ve always leaned on my left foot too much and then my right foot coming down. I can’t do that anymore.
“I’ve had to put more pressure on my right foot going back. I think that’s something every coach has told me for the last 25 years and now I’ve had to do it. I still don’t get it right every time but in general I hit it straighter. Even my wife Michele has said I don’t hit the bad shots like I used to – the wide ones.
“Without any question it was a positive thing to come out of the injury. I look back and I think I should have broken my ankle 25 years ago. It is bizarre how something like that can make you a better – it’s farcical but it seems to have worked.”
Ralph returns to St Andrews next week to defend the Cleveland Golf/Srixon Scottish Senior Open title he won by one stroke last year, holding off the challenge of Bob Cameron and Luis Carbonetti.
That performance helped seal a place in the US Senior Open this year and also gave him the confidence that more victories could be just around the corner.
“Winning was something I’d always wanted to do,” he said. “Everyone always said I was a good enough player but you have to do it. Sam Torrance came up to me after I won and said ‘why has it taken you so long?’
“Des Smyth came up and said the same. They both said they knew I’d win but didn’t know when. It felt like I was never going to. I just didn’t seem to produce it when it mattered.
“Down the stretch in Scotland I just proved that I can play well when I need to. That was very tough.
The conditions were hard, it was very windy and I had to lead for the last eight holes and I never relinquished it. That proves I can do it when I get in that position, so let’s do it again.
“It was a phenomenal for me. I still can’t believe it went like it did. Mike Harwood won in Australia then he won the Tour Championship in Spain last year so it just shows that sometimes it does come down to confidence.”