Ash Turner battled cerebral palsy to reach the British Open

You can forgive Ash Turner for not getting too freaked out about matters like the weather and the bunkers at the British Open. Turner, playing in his first major, faced down a tougher challenge than any mere golf tournament when he was just a year old.

Turner’s childhood trauma

Turner fell into a fish tank and fractured his skull, and doctors later diagnosed him with a mild form of cerebral palsy called ataxia. The disease affected his muscle control in his arms and legs until the age of six. Doctors told his parents it was likely he’d never walk properly.

“I don’t remember much,” he told the BBC earlier this week. “Only what my parents have told me, but the main problem was that I couldn’t put my heel on the floor properly and would only walk on my toes. When I fell over, I wouldn’t put my hands out, so for the first three years at school I had to wear a crash helmet.”

Golf as salvation

Turner’s father, a regular golfer, bought his son a toy set of clubs to help with balance and coordination. And once little Ash could pound the toy balls out of the family’s garden, he stepped up to a full set.

“Because I practiced so much, it became a way of life for me,” he told Golf Channel. “And you get to competing and the thrill of competing, you can’t beat it.”

Since then, Turner has played mostly as an amateur, competing in his first European Tour event earlier this year. He won his way into the Open Championship by placing first in a field of 72 competitors in a qualifying event, closing with three birdies and an eagle in the final five holes.

He’s not exactly rolling in dough; he just cashed a check for £800 — about $1,040 — for finishing 10th in a small English tournament. But if he can manage to make the cut at the Open, he’ll have a much larger check awaiting him.

Playing with the world’s best

But that could be a challenge. He finished Thursday at +7 after carding seven bogeys and no bogeys in his round, and he’s already 12 strokes behind clubhouse leader Kevin Kisner. The weather could shift dramatically and reshape the field, of course, but it’s more likely that Turner is headed home after just a couple days amongst the world’s greatest. Which isn’t ideal, but he’s OK with it.

“Nobody said being a professional golfer would be easy,” he told the BBC. “But golf has been clearly great for me. And, from where I’ve come from, to get into the Open and now be playing in the same major as Tiger Woods, is just insane.”

Ash Turner is one of the British Open’s great stories. (Getty)
Ash Turner is one of the British Open’s great stories. (Getty)

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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