You can easily spot Juan Postigo Acre on the golf course – he’s the one with crutches and a smile.
Juan was born without much of his left leg but that did not stop him from challenging himself to become one of the best professional disabled golfers in the world.
The Spaniard is one of the world’s top eight golfers who are competing in the G$D (Golf for the Disabled) Tour which is an integral part of the DP World Tour Championship being held at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Unlike most athletes born with a physical disability, Juan has eschewed the use of prosthetics in favour of crutches on the golf course. Watching him tee off or putt is pure magic.
And then there is the smile.
Juan, who says he was inspired by Spanish golfing legend, Seve Ballesteros, who like him was born in the village of Pedrena, Cantabria in Spain, said that golf was always intended to be a big part of his life.
“I got into golf after practising many other sports such as sailing and skiing,” he told Khaleej Times on Thursday. “My family really got me into the sports world and I discovered golf at the age of 11.
“My grandad played golf and I was the only grandson who wanted to go with him to play, so I have really great memories of playing with him and getting into the game.”
It takes a lot of hard work and determination for able-bodied people to commit and excel in sports which meant that for somebody like Juan, it would be a great deal harder. Especially if you are disabled athlete.
However, Juan acknowledged the Tour was doing a lot to empower people of his kind and make them feel included in events like the DP World Tour Championship.
“It’s been rough. It’s been hard to get what we deserve but now we’re here,” he said.
“I think we deserve to stay on these tours, at this level. People are loving what they’re seeing and it’s great they are enjoying it. It’s very good. We’ve built a great platform, so the world can see us.
“I also think that as a new Tour we have to improve many things, we have to keep growing, but we also have to thank the tour for what they are doing for us.”
Juan was quick to thank the media for taking note of what disabled golfers have accomplished in their sport, but did not see himself being role model in the true sense of the expression.,
“I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m pleased with the way the press have treated me, trying to take the game to another level and showing people what we can do,” he said.
“There isn’t any pressure at all. Obviously I have my private life, where I’m not the biggest role model in the world (laughs), but I have a really calm, stable life and if that means I’m a role model to others, that’s great.”
It was his family that pushed him to do sport at a very young age.
“My parents pushed me out into the streets from an early age and treated me like any other kid,” he said. “That’s why I don’t like to see my disability as a disability, it’s just something different. They’ve made me think like that since I was young.
“The key is family. For the athlete, it’s about loving what you do. I love being on the golf course, I love travelling, so I’m lucky to be doing this for a living.”
Talking about the challenges that disable athletes have to cope with Juan added: “We work a lot on strength, recovery and we have to do many things in order to play high-level golf. I work a lot on my left leg, my core, my arms, everything.
“I do a lot of cycling to keep fit and stay strong. I also need to be careful with my diet because if I gain extra weight, it’s more difficult to walk on crutches, so I have to look after lots of little things which other people might not have to think about.
“Mentally I just need to know everything in my environment is okay, such as my family and my house, that keeps me mentally stable,” he said. “Physically, it’s obviously a tough challenge for us. If you have two legs, golf is tough, but if you only have one, it’s even more difficult.”
Juan agreed that he was blessed with natural talent and coordination that helped him to perform at the very top level.
“I’ve had a natural talent for all the sports I’ve played, it’s something which comes easily to me,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I haven’t worked loads to improve at golf, but when you really love something it’s easy to spend hours and hours working on it.”
Juan also professed his love for the UAE and its ‘amazing’ food.
“I love Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It’s a part of the world that you have to come and visit,” he said. “Obviously, the weather is amazing and the golf courses are great. I’m from Spain and I can assure you, there are some amazing restaurants here. The food is very good so it feels like home for me. I love coming here at this time of year.”
Before he walked off to unwind and prepare for another day of golf, Juan said: “I won’t give any advice to athletes, I would give it to the parents. What has helped me more than anything is my education. “