South Moor member lost his leg six years ago and can barely walk 20 yards without falling over – but saw off an entire field in an England Golf event, which included a ‘miracle shot’ from out of a ditch
By Tim Taylor
Amputee Colin Poole, who can’t walk more than 20 yards without stopping, has become the bionic man of golf. The 65-year-old retired publican from County Durham stunned fellow members at his local club by beating 105 able-bodied players to win a tournament, many of them half his age.
His false leg provided an amazing final twist - literally - to an eventful story behind his victory in an England Golf gold medal event.
Colin lost his right leg six years ago, when high cholesterol led to a blocked artery.
By then he had become one of the 17% of amateur golfers in England who have a single figure handicap, winning five club tournaments. Since then, he has found it difficult to walk because the extra effort of using the prosthetic limb gives him pain in his left knee and hip.
Although Colin can drive himself round the course in a buggy in between playing shots, he can’t practice his swing on the range. Balancing is tricky and to avoid falling he can only play in dry weather for five months of the year.
To provide value for money, his golf club – South Moor in Stanley, near Chester-le-Street, pictured right – gives Colin a discount on his annual sub.
The victory prompted club director Guy Carr to say: “It is an incredible triumph over adversity. Nobody at the club has ever heard of anything like it before.”
The key moment in Colin’s win arrived after his tee shot at the 18th hole deflected off a tree into a ditch.
“At first it looked as if I would have to concede a penalty stroke and take a drop shot,” he said.
“But then I had an idea. Twisting my prosthetic leg behind me at the knee joint made it possible for me to hit the ball sitting down with my legs in the ditch.
“I gripped down a little on the club and got the ball out of the ditch and onto the fairway.
“Not losing that shot at the last hole turned out to make all the difference, although I did not know who had scored what until we all got back into the clubhouse.”
Colin, nicknamed ‘Shep’, now plays off a handicap of 22. He won by one shot, finishing with a gross score of 89. Taking away the handicap, that gave him a 67.
Club director Carr, an IT consultant, revealed: “Inevitably, there has been discussion within the club as to whether Colin contravened Rule of Golf 13-2 on the 18th. This governs fairly improving a stance.
“There is nothing in that rule which covers prosthetic legs and it is hard to see how playing a golf shot sitting down is easier than if he had been standing up. Colin is a role model and inspiration not only for fiercely determined people everywhere but also golf’s handicapping system.
“His victory is proof that the club adjusting Colin’s handicap has made it possible for him to be a competitive golfer despite his disability.”
Colin said: “I have had to learn how to stand differently. It’s been a long process and I still tend to ‘lock in’ a bit when I am swinging. The only practice I can do is a bit of chipping, so it is down to improving when I play on the course, which is two or three times a week.
“I am still learning but I am making progress. My putting stance is the thing that I have had to change most but that is coming good. And as time goes by I am starting to follow through a bit better on my swing.”
He almost gave up after the first hole of the one-round tournament.
“Some rain had made it a bit slippery underfoot and I cannot play when it is too wet,” he said.
“I was on the brink of going in because I did not want to risk falling over and breaking my neck but thankfully it was OK after that. I had a bit of luck on the right of the eighth fairway. My tee shot hit a horse’s head in the farmer’s field next door and bounced back onto the fairway.
“The horse seemed OK although I reckon I turned a horse into a unicorn!”
The South Moor course was created by the same man who designed Masters venue Augusta National, YorkshiremanAlisterMacKenzie.
In early April millions of TV viewers round the world watched Sergio Garcia pip Justin Rose in a play-off to win £1.6m at Augusta.
The only people watching Colin take the £50 first prize at South Moor were his caddie, 74-year-old pal Toby Carr, plus two golfers competing alongside him, Barry Johnson and Connor Robson.
Colin has been a member for 35 years at South Moor and clearly welcomes the occasional wager.
He said: “Off the handicap I have now, I fancy my chances going head to head against any golfer on a course I know so well.
“I reckon I would take fifty quid off Sergio Garcia if ever the Masters champion fancies a one-off matchplay challenge match at Augusta’s sister course!”
Colin was the landlord at the Townley Arms in Stanley for 15 years. He was also a scaffolder and ran a business laying patterned concrete.
During a spell as a sand blaster he worked on the Channel Tunnel and was one of a 15-strong team first through the exit at the French end when the tunnel opened in 1994.