See him on the practice range and you think: "What a nice compact and efficient-looking swing." What it is. Geoff Nicholas strikes the ball with an enviable consistency and solidity just about every golfer would like to possess. In that respect, the 57-year-old Australian is at least as many good players. It is only after further investigation that his level of competence becomes a miracle, something truly humiliating.
A victim of the drug for the morning sickness that Thalidomide had prescribed to his pregnant mother, Nicholas was born with deformities in both legs, especially his right, which was six inches shorter than his counterpart. Eventually, after having undergone seven operations by the age of 13, it was amputated, the bones used to partially reconstruct his left leg. None of them stopped golf at an incredibly high standard. He had been a member of The Lakes since 1981 and represented his club and later New South Wales. But it was not until 1989 that he played for the first time in competitions for amputees.
A year later Nicholas won the (inaugural) British and American amputee Opens, the first with 13 shots and the last with eight. That is impressive enough. But it was only the beginning of an incredible run. He also finished first in the next 12 editions of both events. In 2014, he partnered with fellow countryman Shane Luke to claim the Disabled World Cup for Australia, a victory that stands alongside tournament wins in Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Japan.
Perhaps most remarkable, Nicholas got his card for the 1992 (valid) Australasian Tour, where he played twice in the Australian Open and the New Zealand Open, with which he made three out of four cuts.
"When I played, I was actually just content to be qualified, which was probably not a good thing," he says. "But when I played amputee golf, I knew how Greg Norman would have felt, I showed up and I did not think anyone would beat me … I really trust, it's like you feel like you're the king, in a nice way. "
Okay, enough of the history lesson. In the same week that the R & A and USGA announced a global ranking for "Golfers with disabilities" to be set up next year, Nicholas and 11 other men who are certainly high on that list compete here in the very first "Australian All". "-Abilities Championship" in The Lakes alongside Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley and the rest of the field in the 103rd Australian Open.
For everything, this striking recognition represents an important moment. But for Nicholas who played on his home course, it was very emotional.
"It was fantastic out there, even though I was a bit nervous to start with," he said, after having signed his round of 79 by parrying a 25 foot leg for a closing birdie on the par-3 9th, his 18th . "Although I played in a few Aussie Opens as a professional before, this was a very special day for me, and the people in the crowd were very positive to all of us – we can not thank Golf Australia enough for supporting this initiative.
"This is also a big step forward for us in a broader sense.It is so important for the public to see that people with disabilities can play golf and play, and hopefully we have a few motivated to try it for ourselves. that would be much more important than the score someone has taken today. "
Indeed, inspiring things.