Golfer overcomes spinal injury to lift trophy

Few players have waited as long as Jamie Donaldson did for their first European Tour win – and even fewer have achieved it after being told their career could be over.

Donaldson’s brilliant four-stroke victory in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush last July came in his 255th Tour event and 12 years after he turned professional.

And, like buses, once his Tour duck was broken another victory against a star-studded world-class field was just around the corner as Donaldson hoisted the Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday, eclipsing a stellar start list in the United Arab Emirates containing Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Ernie Els, Jason Dufner, Martin Kaymer and Padraig Harrington.

How life has changed for 37-year-old Donaldson, the golfer who was advised to stop playing the sport after suffering serious back trouble.

In 2000, he played alongside Luke Donald and Paul Casey at the world amateur team championship in Germany but, while they became instant hits in the paid ranks, he faced a bleak future after being diagnosed with a serious spinal condition.

“The low point, probably in 2004, was when I would be scared of stepping off a kerb just in case my back was going to go,” he said.

When one doctor advised him to call a halt to his career, though, Donaldson was having none of it.

“I couldn’t hear that – that wasn’t what I wanted to hear,” he said after collecting the £278,172 first prize to move 18 places up the world rankings to a career-high 29th spot.

“To be honest, as soon as somebody says that, you just go and see somebody else.”

That person was London-based spinal rehabilitation specialist Jon Bowskill, and he gave Donaldson a programme of core stability exercises that enabled him to resume playing.

“It’s a bit like riding a bike really. Once you’ve done them for so long you’re training balance muscles that you never had before,” he added.

“I haven’t done any for quite a while now, but I think there will come a point where I actually need to.
“At the moment it’s not broke, so I’m not trying to fix it.”