“I think without golf I’d be in a very different place, that’s for sure. Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I think golf for me is happiness.”
The fifth stop on the inaugural G4D Tour season will see all top ten players in the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD) compete together for the first time.
The Englishman, who is ranked World Number Eight, started playing golf at 13 after being introduced to the sport along with his twin brother Mitch by his father, and his love for the game quickly grew. When his handicap tumbled into single figures, aspirations of forging a career in golf surfaced.
At the age of 22, an MRI scan revealed he had a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer in his knee. Unfortunately for Smith, who had a six-month old son at the time with his wife Abbie, a delayed diagnosis put his aspirations of having a playing involvement in the sport he loved at jeopardy.
“The first thing before they told me… the doctor came in and said, ‘How would you feel if you could never play golf again?’ Smith told the EDGA podcast.
“If when I had first gone to the GP, they had booked an MRI within a week, I might still have my leg of course,” added Smith. “You know, it took me a little while to get over that, just that thought. But now I’m actually a lot happier than I used to be with two legs. I don’t feel bitter about it.
“I was referred to a specialist in London, and he basically said to me, the only option is to take your leg off. I can try to save your leg, but then there will be a good chance that your cancer will come back. I said to him, yes, chop it off, have the chemo, all that stuff, and just move on.
“I remember, I think it was the day that I had the surgery. It was either Mum or Abbie. They went to sit on my bed just to my right where obviously my right leg would have been. And they went to sit down and I sort of screamed, I said, ‘No, watch my leg there’. But it’s not there. You know, there’s a space there for them to sit. It took a while for the brain to actually register this, that part of my body was no longer there.”
But now I’m actually a lot happier than I used to be with two legs. I don’t feel bitter about it.
The best news was the cancer had not spread, while further good news emerged during his treatment with the birth of his second child.
Now almost five years to the day on from the surgery, Smith is one of the best golfers with a disability and is due to become a father for the third time with Abbie later this year.
Determined to pursue a career in the sport, aided by reading about the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) during his initial rehabilitation, Smith went on to play in his first EDGA event in Wales in 2018. But he was unable to fully enjoy the experience due to discomfort caused by the socket of his prosthetic leg, leading him to visit a surgeon in Australia who drilled a metal implant into the stump of his leg.
“If I’d been happy in the socket, it would’ve been a very hard decision, but I was so miserable having that socket every day,” he explained.
“I’d put it on, I’d be in pain all day and I’d start sweating. I’d come home and I’d take my leg off and I’d throw it against the wall. I’d had enough with it.
“So, for me, it’s the best thing I could have done and the movement is so much better. There’s no pain.”
Smith has won three out of the five EDGA tournaments he has entered so far this season, leading to his qualification into the G4D Tour @ BMW PGA Championship, where Mitch - PGA Professional at Royal Cromer Golf Club - will be his caddie.
In late June and early August, Smith qualified to play in two G4D Tour events staged by the DP World Tour, the G4D Tour @ Horizon Irish Open and the G4D Tour @ ISPS Handa World Invitational.
He says he has found a family spirit within the EDGA community and that it was “a very nice privilege” to have played recently with Juan Postigo Arce, the player who helped inspire him to reconnect with the game following his surgery.
“Before I lost my leg, I would get down quite a lot. I used to be quite an angry golfer. Now, obviously you have your highs and your lows, but I mean now a bad day is, you know, I’m still this side of the ground, if that makes sense. So that’s my mindset you know, it could have very easily been the other way. So, a bad day of golf, isn’t the worst thing in the world.”