BICESTER golfer Andy Gardiner is hoping to become the first British amputee to turn professional following his Czech Masters win last week.
Despite only taking up the game last May, Andy has already won tournaments all across Europe, including the World Cup with England, as well as playing with celebrities such as Harry Redknapp.
His biggest win came just last week when he won the Czech Masters by eight shots to lower his handicap to 5.7.
The 35-year-old, who lives in Fritwell, said: “The win at the Czech Masters last week was my biggest win because that’s a no handicap event and I won by eight strokes in a field of 65.
“It’s the biggest winning margin ever on the EDGA (European Disabled Golf Association) Tour. I also had a hole-in-one during the practice round in the Pro-Am so it was a great week.”
Andy had to have his right leg amputated nine years ago after he had 13 breaks between his knee and his ankle following a fall.
His achievement in the golfing world becomes even more remarkable considering he only started playing the game last year. In the 15 tournaments he’s played since then, he’s only not placed in one.
He said: “I had swung the club around before but not properly. It was only last year when my mate persuaded me to go down to the driving range.
“I watched him hit some balls and decided to have a go and that was it – the swing was just natural and as soon as I started it was there.
“I’ve now been a member at Bicester Golf Club for six weeks and I’ve played in the Czech Republic, Sweden and Italy since joining and my performances have been five or six shots better.
“My first tournament was the British Amputee Championship last year where I came third with a set of eBay clubs that cost £30.
“After that, my first international was Holland where I came second and I’ve also played in the World Cup which we won and I was unbeaten.
“I won the Copa de las Nacion in a team with England and have played in Italy, Norway and Germany.”
His success and natural golfing ability has not only seen him win numerous events, but he’s also had the opportunity to play with celebrities, most notably former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp.
He added: “I went to Slaley Hall where the top three got to play with Freddie Flintoff and Mark James, Harry Redknapp and Barry Lane and Peter Fowler and Sophie Hall.
“I ended up with Harry and Barry and we played three holes that were televised. On the first hole it was alternate shot, Harry put me right up the lip of the bunker and I put it to within a few feet!
“Then on the par-three I put my tee shot to a few feet again and Harry holed the winning putt.
“I told the professionals that I wanted to turn pro and after they had seen me hit a few shots they told me that it won’t be a problem.”
Andy, who is currently looking for a coach, is also keen to the raise the profile of the sport, adding: “I want to show people what you can achieve.
“My aim is to turn disabled golf into a mainstream sport, at the moment people aren’t interested because it’s disabled but the standard of some of the play is absolutely immense.
“The guy who won the British Open last year got a nine on his first hole and then played the next 35 holes in two-under par on a championship course.
“I want to raise the profile of disabled sport on the whole.”
Following his Czech win, Andy has set himself the target of turning pro before the end of the year.
He said: “My next tournament is next week in Holland for the Dutch Open and there’s also the British Open and the European Championships.
“My aim is to lose another 1.3 off my handicap and then I can officially turn pro and that’s what I’ll do once I get down to 4.4.
“Because it’s a European handicap, I’m hoping to get a good result next week in Holland and get down to 4.4 and turn pro in Finland.
“I will be the first British amputee to turn pro and I don’t want to stop, I want to see exactly how far I can go.
“I want to play in a proper PGA event, whether as an invite or qualified.
“And I want to challenge people’s perception on disability sport.”