Danny Denison: From tragedy to ecstasy

We meet Danny Denison as he prepares for his rookie year on the European Tour – five years after having a serious car accident

EVERY year there are a handful of tales of European Tour rookies who have had to do things the hard way. 

Few, if any, can come close to Danny Denison. The Yorkshire youngster, from Howley Hall, qualified for the 2006 Open. 

The following year he was on his way to a Challenge Tour event in Austria when the car in which he was a passenger crashed through a garden wall before turning over several times. 

After being trapped for over an hour he was airlifted to hospital where he was knocked out for 12 hours so his leg could be rebuilt.

How long were you sidelined for?
I didn’t weight-bear for 10 months so I couldn’t walk and it was 14 months before I finally hit a full shot. I had a bit of bone to grow and fill a gap before I could walk so I had to be careful. I was itching to get back and tried a bit too hard too early on but I came through it. I remember my first full round was in America and I played nine holes and then 18 in a buggy and it wasn’t pretty.

How much physio has your recovery involved?
I started with bending exercises and flexibility. I had so much time I would do that throughout the day. At first it was very painful but, once I started walking, it came back pretty quickly. There is still damage to my posterior cruciate ligament which causes too much movement in my knee and it grinds away on the cartilage. I can’t run or play tennis or do anything that puts stress on it so that’s a bit annoying.

Was there ever a doubt you would never play again?
Nobody really gave me any negative thoughts really, at times things ran through my head but I didn’t have any big setbacks so could stay pretty positive. I won’t lie, getting on to the European Tour has come a bit quicker than I thought, though I always believed I would at some point.

You finished 6th on last year’s Challenge Tour, how many starts will that give you?
I’ll play Abu Dhabi, my ranking for there is right on the bubble, and I’ve been told I have more or less got an invite to Qatar. Then Dubai I’m on the bubble again. I am managed by International Sports Management (ISM) and they are a powerful company so hopefully they can help with invites to some of the co-sanctioned events.
I played practice rounds with Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo and Henrik Stenson which was a dream. Olazabal is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet.
Your second at St Omer was more profitable than your win in Denmark?
It was a little bit under twice as much so, regarding the Order of Merit, it was huge though the win was a bit more satisfactory. It’s like one of the ‘Majors’ on the Challenge Tour. At the moment you’ve got St Omer, Madeira and Kazakhstan so, if you do well in one of them, you can almost take care of your card.

Was winning again as you imagined?
ISM were winning a lot of tournaments so it was great to add a Challenge Tour victory for them and do my little bit. I had been struggling with my short game at the start of the season and started seeing a new coach for that and it improved things. 
We had a big rain delay on the first day, I had to go back to finish my round and then the Saturday was a wash-out as well. So it was down to 54 holes which proved to be of benefit to me.

The win appeared to come a bit out of the blue?
I was struggling with my long game, I remember being on the range and thinking this isn’t great but then I found a little secret on the range, as we all do, before going back out on the Friday, and it was great after that.

Was the pressure particularly great?
It was and it wasn’t. It was probably the first Challenge Tour event where there weren’t any leaderboards on the course, the only inkling that (playing partner) Steve Tiley and I had that we were doing well was that we were gathering a few of the crowd from the last group. I three-putted the last and I was fuming but someone said that might be enough.

Which tournaments are you most looking forward to?
I have always watched the PGA and I should get in there which will be brilliant. And the Dunhill Links. It will be amazing to play those three courses and it’s been a while since I played some links golf.

What is it like playing in The Open as a 21-year-old? 
That was incredible and the best experience I’ve had to date. I played practice rounds with Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo and Henrik Stenson which was a dream. Olazabal is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet and he put on a real exhibition with his ball striking and short game.
You just put your name on the starter’s list, had Tiger been on it I would have stuck my name down with him.

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