Amputee golfer Geoff Nicholas will make his Senior Open Presented by Rolex debut at Royal Lytham & St Annes today after earning his place in Monday Qualifying.
The Australian – who participated in the European Tour’s ground-breaking EDGA Scottish Open for Golfers with Disability earlier this month – was one of more than 500 golfers who competed at four qualifying sites for the 49 remaining places in The Senior Open field, securing his spot after a play-off at Fairhaven Golf Club.
Nicholas was born with deformities in both his legs – a side-effect of the drug named Thalidomide which was used to combat the effects of morning sickness in expectant mothers. At the age of 11 his right leg was amputated, but that did not stop him from playing golf – which he took up after seeing it on television.
He carded a level par round of 73 at Fairhaven and then earned his place at Royal Lytham & St Annes after a five-man play-off with a birdie on the fourth extra hole.
“In regulation I think I sunk a 25-footer for birdie which got me into the play-off,” he said. “There were two spots and two alternate places. We all birdied the first and parred the second, one guy dropped out on the third.
“On the 18 th , one guy knocked it on for two and I hit an eight iron to about 15 feet with my third shot – I bent in the putt and we both went through.
“To qualify for The Senior Open, a Senior Major Championship, is terrific. It’s been one of my dreams; and to get through Qualifying was brilliant. It’s just great to be here.
“I like to feel as though I’m inspiring people – and there’s a lot of people out there. Golf is such a great game in which to do that. There’s so many avenues to succeed in this sport – there’s no other sport like it.”
Currently ranked Number Eight on the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD), the 58-year-old admitted he had enjoyed the EDGA Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club to the east of Edinburgh, which took place alongside the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, a Rolex Series event on the European Tour.
“I came over to the UK ten days ago to play in the EDGA Scottish Open which was great and I thought, ‘well, I’m over here, I might as well try and qualify for The Senior Open’ and here I am.”
In 1990 he won the inaugural British Amputee Open and won the U.S. Amputee Open later that year. He would dominate the amputee golf scene in the 1990s – winning both championships every year until 2002. He earned his card on the PGA Tour of Australasia in 1992, which he held for a number of years, and also teed it up in the same event as Tiger Woods in the 1996 Australian Open.
“That was really special,” said Nicholas. “I actually beat him in the first round – so I’ve always got that to remember. This week is something else, it’s great to be around so many legends of the game.
“A lot of people don’t know what to expect from me – a lot of them don’t realise because when you wear long trousers and walk reasonably well, they don’t know.
After The Senior Open, Nicholas will be hoping to maintain his position in the top eight of the WR4GD and earn a spot at the EDGA Dubai Finale at the end of the season, the second disability championship scheduled alongside Rolex Series events on the 2019 Race to Dubai.
The EDGA Dubai Finale will take place alongside the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November.