When Austin Ramsay's condition ruled him out of playing most sports, he found solace in golf. And our beautiful game has given him purpose and confidence
There aren’t many sports Austin Ramsay hasn’t tried. He played a season in goal but being on his feet proved too much as the games clocked up. He took to cricket and could hit a nice cover drive but getting between the wickets was a challenge.
While most of us grow up running, jumping, tackling and shooting, Austin’s parents Rob and Kristan were always putting the reins on – and it was tough for a 10-year-old who just wanted to compete.
The North Yorkshire youngster has multiple epiphyseal dysplasia. If the condition doesn’t trip off your tongue, it’s a rare genetic disorder that is associated with the growing ends of bones. It affects just one in 10,000 people.
It leaves him suffering joint pain and fatigue – walking just 200 metres is enough to cause him significant discomfort – and gives him a distinctive waddling gait.
If you simply sat on the end of his bed, changing the balance of the mattress, the soft jolt would be enough to make him wince. Not that you’d know. He never shows his pain around other people.
He uses a wheelchair at school and – admits Kristan – it comes “everywhere”.
But on his 9th birthday, his dad presented him with a junior set of clubs and he soon embarked on a trip to his local club, Ripon City. Since then, his life has been transformed.
“It’s meant independence,” said Kristan of Austin’s love of golf. “As a mother, it’s been constantly ‘you can’t do that’.
“I’m always worried about the impact sport will have on his legs, his fatigue and then seeing him compared to able bodied boys you can see a difference.
“With a golf buggy, he jumps on and is off and you just see him between the trees. It’s helped him massively.”
With the help of that buggy and the handicap system, Austin (pictured above with Rob, Kristan and sister Matilda) has thrived – reducing his mark to 42 in just 12 months and becoming a fixture of the Ripon City junior team.
“It’s really fun to play and I improve every day,” he said. “I hit my driver a long way and I’ve always got a chance to beat someone. If I play my best I know I can.
“I use my buggy and I can go and play a round and it’s easy for me to have a game without any pain.
“I enjoy playing matches, and beating my dad, and having a go at other places like Rudding Park. I went to Ilkley and Oakdale and it’s fun to play with other people I don’t know and get to know them.”
And that, for Rob and Kristan, has been the revelation that has come from his involvement in the sport.
Rob explained: “He was a bit nervous around other people but he’ll actually interact now. His confidence has been boosted massively. He can come to Ripon juniors, compete at the level he does and be accepted.”
“He doesn’t feel like he is on the back foot,” added Kristan. “He is equal now to all his peers and when he’s playing golf he doesn’t have to think about his legs because he has that buggy to jump on and play his game.
“His core balance and strength has really improved. He is so straight and powerful. It’s lovely as a family to come and watch him play sport.”