Juan Postigo Arce was born without much of his right leg and no knee, but since starting to play golf aged 12 he has gone on to reach World Number Three in the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability.
Having grown up in the same part of Northern Spain as Seve Ballesteros, Juan last week claimed his maiden victory on the G4D (Golf for the Disabled) Tour, the G4D Tour @ Hero Cup at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. The day before his victory Gulf News caught up with the Spaniard to hear his story.
Juan, how did you get into golf?
Well, I was lucky to get into golf because my grandfather started playing golf when I was like 11 or 12 years old, so he took me to play golf with him and I really loved the sport. Before golf I had the chance to practice many other sports at a high level and golf was the only one where I could play against my grandfather and we could play together. The disability didn’t count in the sport.
Competitively, how did your golfing career progress?
It was so fast, the first year I was 36 handicap, then down to 18 in one year, then to nine the next year, then to four and then to scratch. I really enjoyed practicing, I loved being around the golf course. I love doing this and this is why I put so much effort in it and that’s why my level to now has been so fast and so good.
How important is what the G4D (Golf for the Disabled) Tour has created for you and your fellow competitors?
I really feel that I have worked a lot to make G4D be on this stage. I have been involved with the European Disabled Golf Association from 10 to 12 years and we have worked a lot together. We have reached a level that we can show that disabled golfers are really competitive, we play on tour venues every single week and we score pretty well. We have the world number one which is Kipp Popert, so the level is so high and the G4D has to keep growing and that’s the path we need to follow. We need to keep growing and get more players involved in the game and get the best players to come play these events. We have to sometimes differentiate between social golf and competitive golf, and we are talking about competitive right here. We are talking about great golf players that have a disability, but first of all they are golf players and elite golf players so we can’t forget that.
Do you like to be labelled as “disabled golfers”?
Well, it’s the reality! I don’t have a problem with that personally but if I did then that’s my problem because we have big disabilities. This week you can see we have players with back injuries to missed limbs. There’s a lot of disadvantages in life, but the reality is when we are out on the golf course, we don’t see our disabilities as big as we see them outside. I can’t walk through an airport alone because of my luggage but I can walk through a golf course alone. So, I think we feel free and complete and the golf course.
Being born without much of your right leg, how were the challenges growing up?
The way that they (my parents) taught me in life is really good. They were brave, they tried to find solutions but at the same time they didn’t want me to be that way my whole life. Unfortunately, it has been like that. But their intention was to be able to get me to walk with two legs, but it wasn’t possible, and they really taught me how to live with one. They really let me learn from my mistakes, they didn’t over protect me at any time. I think that was very brave of them and the way they wanted to do it was through sport. I had been swimming for a long time, I loved playing football, I was sailing for a long-time also, so they wanted to teach me life through sport and how to be competitive to be able to make your own life because every day is like a little competition for us.
How did your golf swing develop?
I started playing golf with my prosthetic on my right leg and at one point I had to decide that I couldn’t use it again, but my swing was always quite natural. I learned by seeing. So, I think it was natural, we had to do some work to strengthen my body to be able to hit it further and to be more stable. But the mechanics of the swing we didn’t really touch them a lot, the swing is very natural, so we only work on small things with my coach now. When I need to find some numbers, I might use trackman or other technology, but we try to be quite old school in every single situation.
Do you get frustrated?
Of course, if you gave me the chance to be born with two legs I would take it, that’s the reality. But I have to say I am very lucky to live the life I live. I have a great girlfriend, I have a great family, a lot of great friends and I am playing golf full time. There are some challenges day by day but the life I live by sharing my experience and by doing a lot of things related to my disability, of course I would like to have two legs but I have this and my life is really a whole life and I do everything I want to and I just love the way I live.
What do you want to still achieve?
Short term for this season, I didn’t have a win last year so I want to do that, and I hope I can do that tomorrow at the G4D Tour @ Hero Cup. Then I would like to win the order of merit for the G4D Tour this year. Long term I would like to get to the Paralympics. I think to any athlete the biggest dream is to represent their country in the Paralympics and to make a good result and take a medal home and that’s where I think I could end my career. I need to get there to be able to say I’m finished so that would be my biggest dream long-term.