‘For the first three years at school I had to wear a crash helmet’

Golf News

Final Qualifying has a habit of bringing up some incredible back stories and Ashton Turner, who will make his Open Championship debut at Carnoustie, is one such example

No other player in this year’s Open Championship field has likely had a route into the game like Ashton Turner. The 22-year-old from Alford in Lincolnshire was only given a club at the age of three in an attempt to improve his balance and have some brief respite from endless hours of physio. Turner had a form of cerebral palsy called ataxia.

“They discovered it when I fell into a fish tank and I fractured my skull when I was one. I would only walk on my toes, I couldn’t put my heel on the floor properly so I had to have lots of physio. And when I did fall over I wouldn’t put my hands out so, for the first three years at school, I had to wear a crash helmet,” Turner explained.

“They predicted that I wouldn’t be able to walk properly and I fell into golf because of that. I started when I was nearly three with some balls in the backyard and I got my first little club when I was four. At six I got cleared of the whole issue.”

Turner is coached by Paul Spence at Kenwick Park. He has been through the whole England set-up, he captained GB&I to victory over Europe in the Jacques Léglise Trophy in 2013 and he was part of the same boys’ squad as Matt Fitzpatrick, but he is still with the same coach that he has had for the past 18 years.

“I first met him at the golf club when he was nearly four,” Spence explained. “He had some health issues as a toddler so they advised him to help golf to help with his balance and co-ordination. He then progressed from Wee Wonders to representing England at every level. He got to scratch at maybe 14 or 15.

“His game is pretty solid, he has always been a very impressive and powerful striker and that’s what his game is built around. And he’s strong mentally.”

Sixteen years on he is preparing for his Open debut having turned pro in 2016. Last year he divided his time between the EuroPro and Challenge Tours, this year he’s keeping things closer to home.

“What I have learnt since turning pro is to not split myself between two tours. I had eight invites on the Challenge Tour which I spread out over the season. If I did it again I would put them all together.”

His last competitive round ahead of Final Qualifying came with a 76 at Cumberwell Park to miss the cut at a EuroPro event, four days later he was part of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie. He had been 4 over after seven holes in Regional Qualifying at Fairhaven before making it through on +2.

Turner had been to FQ in the previous two years and Regional Qualifying at Moortown long before that and three-quarters of the way into it there was little sign of what was to follow.

“The first 26 holes were really frustrating and I should have been quite a few under. There was a scoreboard by the 9th tee and I was about 6th.”

With the wind down and off the right over the last six holes the plan was to try and play the back nine a couple under: “I holed a 20-footer for a two at 9. I hate the tee shot at 10, the wind was into and off the left and all I could see was the field and out of bounds.”

Who is Turner hoping to pair with at Carnoustie? Interview continues on the next page…

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