Following his maiden European Challenge Tour season in 2012, Allen John made the decision to pack up his clubs and regain his amateur status.
Since then, the German has been on a remarkable journey. From walking away from the game to winning the Deaflympics and finishing runner-up as an amateur at the 2018 Porsche European Open on the European Tour.
The 32-year-old has come full circle, returning to Challenge Tour action this season after securing his card through the Pro Golf Tour. We caught up with him ahead of the RAM Cape Town Open.
How does it feel to be back on the Challenge Tour for a full season after eight years away?
When I first played on the Challenge Tour in 2012, I was young, and it was the first time I had stepped up to the paid ranks but so much has happened since then. When I first started playing, I didn’t have a structure or a management team to help me focus on the goals and there was a lot of things that weren’t properly aligned. This time I feel that everything is set up nicely and there’s a great team around me. This time around I feel confident and I can just focus on the golf.
Tell us about your decision to step away from the game?
At the beginning of 2013 I got an injury and I really had to decide where my future lay. I’d been struggling with my game and I had no idea when or if I would fully recover from the injury. At that point I had no sponsors and I decided that I was going to walk away from the professional game. It was a tough decision at the time but now I’m so grateful that things went down that route. As painful as it was, that experience was so valuable, and I’ve come back so much stronger now.
What did you do during this time?
I was working as an athletic coach in my hometown and was studying at the same time. During those three years I regained my amateur status, but I never fully gave up on my golfing dreams. It was during this time that I started to connect with the deaf community and began to compete in the World Deaf Championship and the Deaflympics.
Was your runner-up finish at the Porsche European Open a turning point for you?
Yes, definitely. Everything changed when I finished second at the Porsche European Open. I had a feeling heading into the event that if I kept working hard that I should try one more time to see if I could make it as a professional. Everyone should get a second chance, but I couldn’t really get any backers behind me. Those that I spoke to said ’you’ve already tried it and you didn’t succeed’. I just kept thinking that I’ve got to prove these guys wrong and after that performance at the Porsche European Open, suddenly, people started to take notice. For me that result was a confirmation that I can compete at the top level.
Even after the injury and my history with not being able to hear, I’ve always gone my own way and had the self-belief that I could succeed.
You must have continued that form on the Pro Golf Tour last year to get your Challenge Tour card for this season?
It was the first year back, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I was so excited to be playing again as a professional. Even on the Pro Golf Tour where I’d played a decade ago the standard was so much better, and I had to play really well to get my card. Back when I first played there in 2011 there was maybe only ten players who had a chance to win whereas last year there was 30 or 40.
What are your goals for this season?
Obviously, I’m going to try and get my card, but I think if I can finish inside the top 45 this season then I will be happy. It’s my first season back so I’m really looking forward to getting into the swing of things and just see how high up the Rankings I can finish.
You had a surprise when you arrived at Royal David Mowbray Golf Club yesterday. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yesterday when I was out on the golf course, I was approached by a lady from the South African Disabled Golf Association who was with some children who had come to watch the golf, including two deaf players who were low handicap players. They ended up following me around the course and then afterwards we did a Q&A and just spent some time with the kids. It was interesting to see what system they have in South African to help support young deaf players get into the game, as it is something I have been trying hard to push back home in Germany. It’s very hard for deaf sports to get funding, and that’s what why I’m trying to kickstart something back home. Ideally, a foundation which can help support the young players trying to make it.