Stress buster

Golf’s a life-saver. Just ask ex-serviceman Dominic Felton, who reckons taking up the game did just that.

He now devotes his time helping others in the North East overcome PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) by encouraging them take up the game.

The 53-year-old Bedlington Golf Club member setup OP-V-Golf and is the driving force behind the programme which uses golf as a vital aid in the recovery of injured service veterans.

The scheme was awarded a Certificate of Merit in the North East Disability Sports Awards and Dom is now looking to widen the programme.

Injured by an IRA bomb while serving with the Army in Northern Ireland in 1992, Dom experienced years suffering from PTSD which made his reintegration into civilian life difficult.

“My mental and physical health deteriorated slowly over the years,” he said. “I was self-medicating with alcohol to help deal with the flashbacks, nightmares and disrupted sleep patterns. I couldn’t use public transport or do just about anything that most people would take for granted such as go out with family or interact normally with other people.”

He left the Army in 1994 without any real diagnosis of his problem. In 2010 he learned he had PTSD and began rehabilitation with Combat Stress and Help for Heroes.

While at Combat Stress’ Holly Bush House in Ayr that he was introduced to golf.

“I experienced almost instant success in using golf as therapy. I then started going to the local driving range thanks to the On Course Foundation.”

Proof of how much golf helped came when On Course arranged for a group of veterans to go to Minorca and play golf.

“The fact they managed to get me on a plane was testament to how much golf had helped me, given the fact that I had not been able to get on a bus since 1994.”

Dom joined Bedlington and found support from pro Marcus Webb and decided he wanted to pass on his experience to veterans with similar problems – setting up OP-V-Golf with help from England Golf regional development officer Paul Whittaker.

With sponsorship from Northumberland Sport, On Course Foundation, and support from N1 Golf Range Morpeth and pro John Downie, he launched a 12-week course for service veterans and the final event took place recently at Longhirst when Jim Holborn emerging as the winner.

Dom is currently looking to get more partners involved to ensure the project continues. “Golf has a major part to play in the recovery of injured service personal,” he said. “I hope there are others out there who think it’s worth supporting.”