THERE are plenty of golfers that will never sink a hole-in-one, but for one County Durham man he has been fortunate enough to hit his fifth – and his success around the greens has helped save his life.
Thirty one years after celebrating his first ever ace on the 12th at Bishop Auckland Golf Club, Bill Blenkinsopp has completed the clean sweep of all five par threes at his local course and it has left him reflecting on the most difficult period of his life.
Blenkinsopp’s most recent 167-yard tee shot on the eighth with his four-hybrid followed his fourth hole-in-one at the tenth in 2010. That was his first since suffering the second of two nervous breakdowns, which left him battling with depression when he tried to take his own life three times.
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After losing his job as a manager in the tyre trade after 19 years in December 2006, Blenkinsopp was at the lowest time in his life and he turned his back on the sport he loved. He put on two stone in weight because he couldn’t leave the house between 2007 and 2010.
"I would not wish depression on anyone, the illness is something that people cannot see and just want to sweep under the carpet,” said Blenkinsopp. “I realised who my true friends were and they helped me through it.”
As well as his wife Carol, who is a regular on the fairways with him, he could quite easily count golf as one of his closest allies. He was encouraged to return to the tee-box with his driver by his family GP, Dr Paul Bowron, and consultant, Dr Karrar, in a bid to restore his confidence and health.
He said: “Carol has been my rock and has been fantastic. She really has. We play in mixed events together and she was with me on the tenth four years ago when I hit my fourth hole-in-one.
“The social side of golf, the enjoyment that the sport brings, really helped me when I needed it. I still go along to see Peter Boycott, my CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse), regularly and I’m on medication, but it’s been great being back on the golf course. I love it in between doing my housework for Carol because she works full-time.”
The 63-year-old added: “Golf provided me with something to go out for again because for a few years I just stayed in the house, did not want to see anyone or get out of bed – it was horrible. People really just don’t understand the darkness that someone can go through when struggling with depression.”
What made it worse at the time was that his only daughter, Nadia, emigrated to Australia with husband Gary and their son Hayden. He now also has a granddaughter, Mariella, and he thinks life Down Under is a wonderful opportunity for them all.
Courtesy of Blenkinsopp’s latest ace, he has become the first left-handed golfer to hit a hole-in-one on each of Bishop Auckland’s par threes. He said: “Since then the club has asked members if they know any different, and it seems that I am the only golfer - either right or left handed."
On the most recent occasion 18-handicapper Blenkinsopp, who calls himself Bill.i.am after the singer, was playing with Mike Hardy, nicknamed “slider” because he always uses TaylorMade SLDR clubs.
He said: “Mike had birdied the seventh to go one up in the match - so when I hit my tee shot at the eighth it was to try to get the match all square. I went for the green and the ball hit the top of the flag stick and went in the hole, had it not it would have gone over the green.”