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Remarkable comeback victory for Tony Johnstone

Zimbabwe’s Tony Johnstone clinched an emotional first victory since being told he would never play golf again after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis by winning the Jersey Seniors Classic.

Johnstone hailed the inspirational win, his maiden European Seniors Tour title, as a “personal triumph” after finishing two shots clear on three under par at La Moye Golf Club.

The 52 year old Sky Sports analyst fought back the tears as he holed a par putt on the 18th for a two over par round of 74 to seal a fairytale wire-to-wire victory in the Channel Islands.

It completes a remarkable recovery for Johnstone, who only four years ago was told by experts that he would never play again after he was diagnosed with the condition that affects the central nervous system.

After undergoing revolutionary treatment, he had to relearn large parts of his game, including completely overhauling his putting technique to use his left hand.

Johnstone said he first win since the Qatar Masters in 2001 - the last of his six titles on The European Tour - was the sweetest of all his victories.

He said: “This feels so good. It is a massive victory for me. In terms of personal satisfaction no other win mean s as much to me. Four years ago when I was diagnosed I could never have dreamed of standing here – I didn’t even think I would play golf again.

“I’ve had so much support from family and friends. Ecstatic doesn’t even come close to describing what I am feeling now. I was holding back the tears on the final putt.

“I was so nervous out there today. My drive on 16 into the rough was probably the worst shot I have played in my whole professional career but I ended up with a birdie. That putt to make that birdie answered a lot of questions I had about whether I could still do it.

“There are so many MS sufferers out there. Hopefully this win will show them not to give up hope. There are a lot of people when they first find out go into a tailspin and press the panic button but I was lucky to get a clinical trial.

“There is a lot being done in research and hopefully this will show people not to give up hope. That’s one of my goals really, to show MS sufferers it’s not the end of the road.

“There were a number of times on The European Tour where you’d three-putt on the last green on a Friday afternoon and miss the cut and you’d come off and think “why do I do this for a living?”. It’s only when they tell you that you’ll never do it again that you realise how much you love it.

After taking a two stroke lead into the final day, Johnstone understandably endured a nervous round as the chasing pack put the pressure on him in breezy conditions.

But his birdie on the 16th hole proved decisive, with Paraguay’s Franco Angel, England’s Gordon J Brand, Scotland’s Ross Drummond and South African Bertus Smit all finishing on one under par for a share of second place.

The evergreen 73 year old Sir Bob Charles of New Zealand shot lower than his age for the second successive week with a superb three under par round of 69 to finish in tied 17th place.

June 8, 2008

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