DECLAN Burns’ life changed forever after a tragic motorbike accident in London 15 years ago when he lost his right arm.
However, the Culmore Road man has refused to let his disability hold him back.
The blunt impact of that motorcycle crash caused irreparable damaged to his brachial plexus - the network of nerves that sends signals from one’s spine to the shoulder, arm and hand - and he was to lose the use of his limb forever.
A talented golfer, Declan then made the heart-wrenching decision to have his arm amputated after much deliberation 12 years after his accident, and as difficult as it is to imagine, the City of Derry Golf Club member described that decision as a liberating one.
In fact, the local Software Engineer’s story has proved to be an inspiration to many as he competes with the world’s best one-armed golfers.
And just three weeks ago he won major honours at the One-Armed World Golf Championships at Ballater Golf Club in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Declan, who turned 45 years-old yesterday, narrowly missed the cut for the Matchplay Finals but went on to win the inaugural Handicap Trophy - which involved the four best nett scorers after a 6 & 5 victory over fellow Irish man, John Condie.
“My accident left me with a paralysed limb on the right side and I had my arm amputated in 2010 because there was no life in it,” he explained.
“It was traumatic, but I made the decision to have it amputated and in hindsight I was thinking to myself that I should have done it earlier.
“I was maybe living in the hope that science would catch up and they might find a way to regenerate my arm, but that wasn’t going to happen and I made the decision to get rid of the redundant limb.
“But now I’m quite happy that I did. I have much more freedom of movement now and I think it’s actually improved my golf swing because it doesn’t get in the way.”
The Kingsfort Park resident also bagged the ‘Longest Drive’ prize at the Championships after his remarkable 224 yards shot on the second hole.
Despite his obvious limitations, Declan has learned to adapt his game and was delighted to have competed favourably at what was a high profile event.
And he revealed that one of his fellow competitors on the day actually requested he produce his GUI membership card to prove that he played off a 24 handicap.
“I beat the first guy, Malcolm Guy in the semi-final 9 & 8 and he was challenging my handicap and made me produce my GUI certificate because he couldn’t believe I held a 24 handicap.”
Declan also harbours hopes of being selected for the Society of One-Armed Golfers’ Fightmaster Cup Team (The equivalent of the Ryder Cup) next year. However his immediate goal is to reduce his handicap and prepare for the Irish Regional Championships in Athenry next September.
“I’m trying to get my handicap down to at least 18 by the end of the summer if I can.
“But part of the mission of the Society is to raise awareness for people with a disability and let people know that sport is not beyond them.
“One of the big things that the Society finds is that they have very little media exposure to raise awarness, so maybe that will be our focus.”