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Ryanne Jackson finding joy in golf ahead of G4D Tour debut on home soil 

Ryanne Jackson finding joy in golf ahead of G4D Tour debut on home soil 

By Mathieu Wood

For Ryanne Jackson, golf has been a fundamental part of her life, both before and since her disability was diagnosed.

Ryanne Jackson
Ryanne Jackson will make her G4D Tour debut in Dallas

The American first started to play the game at the age of six, and through commitment, and no shortage of talent, she became a good single figure handicapper despite struggling with tiredness without ever understanding the cause.

That was until at college, during her freshman year studying history, when Jackson was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy aged 19.

“A lot of people with my condition aren’t able to walk, so golf helps me understand where I am in my life,” she tells the DP World Tour.

Since her diagnosis, Jackson has made great strides in adaptive golf, most notably winning the U.S. Adaptive Open last summer.

Now 26, she is preparing for her first appearance on the G4D Tour, an international series of tournaments for golfers with a disability run by the DP World Tour and EDGA.

Ryanne Jackson
Jackson (right) won last year's U.S. Adaptive Open, which is run by the USGA

Her condition, which causes the muscles in her shoulders and legs to weaken over time, means she may arrive for her debut at THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson in Texas on April 29-30 short of practice compared to others in the ten-strong field, but she more than makes up for that with her excitement.

“Having the opportunity to play a G4D event in the US for the first time is cool, especially when it is the first time the Tour has come here,” explains Jackson, who will have her parents on site for moral support.

“It is really special. This is home after all for me. It is nice to be able to share my culture I guess with other people.”

Now into its third season since its launch in 2022, the G4D Tour has already broken new ground this year with a maiden visit to Africa at the Magical Kenya Open.

The tournament stateside, which will feature the eight leading adaptive men’s golfers and the two leading women golfers, offers another new high-profile platform for the world’s best with a disability to showcase their talents.

Joining Jackson in the field in Texas is her compatriot Chris Biggins, a regular of past G4D events, and England’s Kipp Popert, who like her won at the U.S. Adaptive Open last summer and competes in the neurological impairment category.

“I'm looking forward to meeting more of the players who typically play on the GD Tour,” she says.

“I'm also very excited to hopefully have the opportunity to go abroad and play in the future.”

The other woman in the field is the Netherlands’ Daphne van Houten, the top-ranked female in the world, and Jackson is proud to showcase golf as an inclusive sport and help further participation.

“Hopefully as adaptive golf grows, more women will be able to get involved and see that they can also play,” she says. “It’s not just a male dominated sport.”

With Dad and sisters Danielle (left) and Morgan IMG_3371
Jackson (right) is pictured with her father David and sisters Danielle (left) and Morgan

Both her older sisters, Danielle and Morgan, played golf and earned recognition at school, while her father David, a former golfer, has served as a coach and central figure in her own development since she began learning at Seminole Lake Country Club, Florida.

But in her own words, golf at the outset was more a means to an end rather than a passion.

“I guess it was always something that I was expected to do,” she explains. “As soon as I could walk, I had a golf club in my hand.

“College is very expensive, and this (getting to a high level) is a good way to pay for college. My Dad played the sport and wanted for his kids to be able to do the same thing... Growing up, I almost always viewed golf as my job in a sense because I knew that was how I was going to pay for college.

“I think I'm sometimes still on the path to finding the enjoyment in golf."

Despite that honest assessment, the American is forever thankful to have been brought up playing the game.

After years of playing golf, coupled with basketball, with the aim of emulating the success achieved at school by her sisters, Jackson earned a golf scholarship to Eastern Illinois University.

“I would see both my sisters’ names on the basketball and golf record boards (at school),” she reflects.

“It was a source of encouragement for me to have my name on the record books with them.”

Jackson is a person full of perspective, not just with regards to her own disability.

“Just because I'm disabled doesn't mean that my struggles are bigger than someone else,” she says.

With her caddie, friend McKenzie IMG_3467
Jackson will have her friend Mckenzie O'Brien as her caddie at TPC Craig Ranch

Jackson works as a patient support technician at St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, and intends to enrol on some courses with a view to going to PA (Physician Associate) School or Med School.

But in the immediate future, her focus is on ensuring she gives her best account possible at TPC Craig Ranch, host of the PGA TOUR’s annual THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson.

“I find that my game is pretty adaptable to the environment and the course that I am playing so hopefully that stays with me in this tournament,” she outlines.

“My biggest challenge now is just being tired all the time. I have these tournaments coming up and I haven’t really practiced as much as I would have hoped because I work, and I still want to have somewhat of a social life.

“That doesn’t leave much energy for practising which is discouraging sometimes to realise. There are a lot of people who just go out and grind through that fatigue and that is something I haven’t really mastered.”

This will be the first of what Jackson hopes will be the first of many appearances on the G4D Tour.

However it goes, opportunities like this one are sure to be another positive reminder to her of how meaningful golf is.

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