Wayne Telford has emerged from months of physical and psychological uncertainty both rehabilitated and rejuvenated - thanks to early steps along a path which started with an internet appeal for help.
One year ago the Portadown-born golfer was putting his energy into a second season on the professional circuit. What started out as neck and back pain, initially considered the wear and tear expected from an enhanced schedule, ended in surgery to repair severe herniated disc damage.
Wayne at one stage turned to the internet for answers to help ease fears he was facing a nightmare end to his fledgling dream career. He credits the day his Facebook page flashed with a post from Deanna Zenger as a turning point personally and professionally.
Deanna, the founder of the Association Of Golf Fitness Professionals, has spent the past few weeks based at Edenmore to push forward Wayne’s return from injury with one-on-one work designed to strengthen body and mind.
“Working with Deanna has been like flicking a switch and there is just total trust between us,” said Wayne. “I had a lot of uncertainty regarding my future during the back and neck trouble but now cannot wait to get back out on the course.
“I have medical exemption from the PGA for this season’s EuroPro Tour but hope to take part in something as soon as possible to test my recovery.”
Her methods include the use of pilates to increase stability and flexibility, alongside a knowledge of golf bio-mechanics to strip down Wayne’s swing technique. Her goal is, in Deanna’s words, “to make Wayne into a true champion”.
Facebook conversations leading to daily Skype sessions helped bridge the gap between Portadown and Ontario but Deanna’s commitment to completing Wayne’s recovery ultimately called for her to visit from Canada. A trip to Deanna’s base - with full privileges - at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, the home of the PGA in South Africa, is now considered the next step in a rebuilding programme with the sole goal of helping Wayne maximise his potential in the sport.
“Working with Deanna has been extremely hard but also amazing, getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning and working over 18-hour days,” said Wayne. “The pilates work helps with flexibility, core strength, mobility, alignment and balance so is actually perfect for golf.
“I want everything done yesterday but also now know just how severe my injury was and having to manage two fused vertebrae is obviously a key part of our work.
“I am going on Deanna’s guidance and do not want to put a timeline on anything but have my full Tour card for the whole season.”
Deanna’s global connections in the golf world lead to work with some of the sport’s biggest names but she considers this partnership something unique.
“Traditionally, my role is to jump in and work with a golfer’s team to help give them the tools to aid the player, then I jump out,” said Deanna. “I don’t take everyone so this is fairly rare but it only works because Wayne has utter trust in my work.
“I am essentially dangling him over a cliff emotionally and physically as the neck handles everything and he could lose the power in his arms if the work is not done appropriately.
“Luckily, I have access to a level of expertise in the medical community, along with the science aspect, that allows us to take the correct steps towards managing those muscles and nerves.
“A golfer’s swing comes from his body and I look at the physical movement and can tell what type of injuries that player will face.
“It is a combination of knowing about a golf swing, anatomy, injury and then how to fix it all.
“So much science now goes into swing efficiency but the body is not made up of mechanical parts and something as common as sitting in the car too long can throw it off.
“It is about knowing how your body is supposed to be at certain points of the swing to help the muscles fire properly with the correct bone alignment.
“Bringing back a player from injury is staggeringly difficult and in South Africa we will be managing him on a course, which is a whole new world at this point.
“We want Wayne to have total confidence in his body to do whatever his mind tells it and not to think but just back up the command.
“Wayne now has a team around him, in terms of coaching, medical advice and fitting, to go along with his laser-like focus.
“We will be with Wayne over everything to help this evolve into something special.”
Wayne is confident access to Deanna’s highly-rated network can help him turn ambition into reality.
“I feel I have had the wrong stuff in my bag for so long, in every way possible,” he said. “Now everything should be so much easier and I am buzzing to get back out on the course.
“Over the first season or so on the Tour I was doing everything myself, from booking travel and accommodation to organising sponsorship support.
“I spent too much time wondering what the other players were thinking of me but the positivity from Deanna and the team now makes me believe I can go out and operate at a top level.”