Dylan Baines woke up being told he would never walk again. Five years later he became champion golfer, having won what was just his third event on the European Handicap Golf Tour (EDGA).
At the age of 22, Baines was in the back of a truck that had been involved in a road accident. He had a broken neck.
Baines, from Penpedairheol in the Rhymney Valley, goes so far as to suggest that “golf saved my life in many ways”.
“Golf came to me at just the right time,” he says. “About two years after my accident, I was really struggling with my mental health.”
Baines was an avid sportsman as a young man, whether on the rugby field, soccer field, ski slope or golf course.
But everything changed on July 1, 2017, when an accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.
“I couldn’t move anything,” he explains.
“One of the first things I asked the surgeon was, ‘Will I ever be able to walk again?'” He just said no, basically.
“To be honest like the end of your world. I had just turned 22 — I was so devastated.
“I understand they have to tell you like it is. But I never think I really believed him. Thankfully, my body agreed with me.”
Remarkably, Bynes now describes himself as “one of the lucky ones.”
He remains paralyzed on his left side, but has regained enough movement to return to golf.
Bynes remained in the hospital for four months after the accident. Six weeks into his treatment, “the first glimmers of hope” appeared.
“My big toe on my right leg was the first thing I could move,” he says.
“I was going crazy. More and more slowly I started to go back to my right side. Then my left side, slowly.
“Not much anymore [on the left] Unfortunately, but here I am wandering around and I can’t believe it.”
Bynes, now 27, has had to get used to regular trips to the doctor in the past five years.
In one session, he saw a poster on the wall showing Mike Jones, a leg amputee who had won EDGA events.
“My body made us connect,” Bynes says. “Mike then took me to France, for my first event, and I’ve loved him ever since.”
Baines’ handicap meant he played in the scoring category at Stapleford in France in May, where he finished fourth, before coming in second at the Irish Open in July.
By November, his handicap had dropped to 17.1, which meant he was entered in the net score division of Portugal’s Algarve Open hoping to finish in the top ten.
“It’s a great story,” says Christian Askins, Championship Director of Wales Golf.
“Five years ago he didn’t know if he’d ever be able to walk again, and he’s still paralyzed on his left side.
“But he is able to play golf under the modified rules of golf, which means he can hold the club in his left side and hold it with his right arm.
For Dylan to win [in the Algarve] It’s an amazing achievement.”
Baines has no sponsorship, so she can only play select events on the EDGA Tour due to the finances involved.
Next stop is the Scottish Open in St Andrews in April 2023, where Father Keith will be carrying his bag.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Baines says with a smile.
“Both of us have always wanted to go to St Andrews so we can’t miss this moment. It’s an existing moment.”
Baines’ long-term goal is to reduce his handicap to less than 7.5, which would make him eligible for the EDGA’s total score division – and events played alongside those on the DP World Tour.
That means plenty of hours on the range — and at his home course, Bargoed Golf Club, with his buddies.
Baines explains that as he started to beat them, he realized he had some talent for golf.
“It’s great because for years I couldn’t compete with them at anything – they’re rugby players and everything,” says Baines.
“But it’s nice to compete with them on the golf course and win now and then.”