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Hole Again: Healing Broken Bones And Broken Dreams With Golf

"It's a thing of beauty, any golfer will tell you, when it all comes off perfectly."

It's a late, warm November afternoon on Sydney's Northern Beaches and James Gribble is giving me a few lessons on how to swing a golf club. We're on the Long Reef Golf Course, which sits right next to Collaroy Beach, and I'm thankful for that sea breeze behind me.

I'm not just relieved as it cools me down, but because this is only the second time I've held a golf club and I'm certain that wind will help carry the ball -- and help me avoid embarrassment.

Preceding this golf lesson, James explains the satisfaction you feel in the moment your club hits the ball and everything comes off perfectly. A moment that rewards the patient and the practiced.

These skills, James says, he learnt in the past decade since breaking his back falling off a stool while travelling solo through Africa. By definition a freak accident, after all, only the day before he had been swinging off canyons in a somewhat precarious setup.

Leaving his job as an investment banker, this trip through Africa was meant to be the beginning of a round-the-world trip that should have lasted a couple of years, not weeks. James was only 29 and was making his way back to Australia after a few years of living in London. Yet in a matter of moments this plan was halted; that break of the back meant he was quadriplegic.

Throughout his recovery and rehabilitation James would visualise himself moving through a game of golf. He was determined he'd play again despite being told he may only ever be able to perhaps feed himself.

Patience, resilience and poise, are the three lessons he has learnt since this accident, James tells me. And I suspect all very helpful attributes if you wish to excel in a game like golf. Not that I would really know.

Now, just about ten years on, James is most certainly back on the golf course and he's helping hundreds of other disabled people do so too. He founded Empower Golf, with the sole aim of facilitating and promoting golf for people of all abilities and to ensure the 1500 + golf courses around Australia cater for the disabled.

James is the definition of kindness. The participants and the coaches all tell me how highly they think of him and how much Empower Golf means to them. He's also driven and eternally positive.

Two important attributes which help when coaching a novice how to swing.

"Feet slightly apart, bend gently at the knees, lean slightly forward," James instructs me kindly and with certainty that I'll be able to do it.

"Now always have a practice swing before hand. And keep your eye on the ball."

And with the twist of my right shoulder and hip, I swing the club up and follow through to the ball, feeling that connection James so beautifully described, and for just a moment I understand, even just a little, what keeps him coming back.

If you would like to find out more about Empower Golf, head over here. You can get involved by donating, volunteering, hosting a clinic, running a fundraiser or through bequests, find out more here.

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