Victoria Mallett describes how a car accident resulted in life-changing injuries – and how she has rebuilt her life and completed her PGA qualifications.

In 2017, the then-19-year-old PGA trainee Victoria Mallett finished third in a WPGA One Day Series event. The following day she was involved in a car accident that resulted in a fractured neck, a stroke and a temporary loss of sight. This is her life-changing story…

Victoria Mallett began her PGA training in 2016. She chose this career route over accepting a golf scholarship in the USA because she believed it would give her a grounding in all aspects of being a golf professional. Once qualified, she hoped to join her older sister, Elizabeth, on the Ladies European Tour.

At the WPGA One Day Series at Little Aston, on May 8, 2017, Mallett was paired with the two-time Solheim Cup Captain, Alison Nicholas. She birdied the last hole to finish third – and her game was evidently in great shape.

The next day, she would be involved in a car accident that would dramatically change the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

Can you talk us through what happened after the car accident?
My whole life was changed in an instant. As a result of the car accident, I suffered a C7 neck fracture and then a few days after the accident I had a brain stem stroke. I went from my local hospital to a stroke unit at Heartlands Hospital (in Birmingham) not knowing at that point what was happening to me. During this time, my mum, dad and sister never left my side.

At first, I couldn’t see or stand. I was on my back for a very long time on a stroke ward with a neck brace on. It was really scary. After a few days I could sit up but couldn’t stand. Gradually, I was able to stand up, but I still couldn’t walk. I physically couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. I was so weak because I’d been lying down in bed for four weeks.

Following the brain stem stroke, I completely lost my eyesight. I remember just lying in bed in a typical hospital room where you’ve got a clock on the wall at the bottom of your bed.

One day, having not been able to see anything for days on end, I opened my eyes when I woke up. My eyes were flickering and, all of a sudden, I could see that clock – I was in complete disbelief!

Regaining my eyesight was an emotional day because I could actually see – and I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to see again. From not being able to see, and not being able to walk, to coming back and finishing my PGA – that was just a rollercoaster journey.

We know that Simon Hubbard, Head of Training at The PGA, has been a huge support for you. Can you tell us about that relationship?
While I was in hospital, my dad spoke to Simon. He came to visit me in hospital to see how I was doing. It was just incredible really that he would do that. Since then, I’ve had a special bond with him. He went above and beyond for me.

I took a year out of my PGA training to try to get well and recover as best as I could. Simon always said if I wanted to get back to it, then there would be a way to do that and I could, with his help and the support of The PGA, carry on with the degree, which is what I managed to do.

When I was ready, I went back for Years Two and Three and I have graduated. I can now say that I’m a fully-qualified PGA Professional. Simon cared about me as a person as well as my PGA training.

And he also put you in touch with PGA Master Professional Denis Pugh?
My dad mentioned to Simon that I was really into my coaching and that Francesco Molinari is my favourite golfer – so he gave Denis Pugh my telephone number! After a few weeks, while lying in hospital, I got this telephone call and it was Denis. It was just crazy! At that time, I still couldn’t see, but he promised me that, when I was well enough, I could go down to The Wisley and meet Francesco Molinari, who he coaches. I’m still in touch with Denis now, we’ve kind of become friends.

I went down to The Wisley and I met Francesco. It was incredible. My sister, Elizabeth, came down with me, we had breakfast with Denis and Ross Fisher, another player that he coaches, played nine holes on the course, and I got to meet Francesco and watch him practise.

That was a big goal for me – I needed to get well enough to do it – so when it happened it was amazing. It felt like a milestone in my recovery. We went in June 2019 – so it was two years after the accident.

We know there have been a lot of people supporting you throughout your journey. Can you talk about them?
Absolutely. Obviously Simon Hubbard and Denis Pugh. Then there’s Julie Otto who was my PGA mentor. She was only supposed to be my mentor for Year One, but Simon asked her if she would carry on being my mentor throughout the course, which was very supportive. I can always ring her up and say: “what about this and what about that”.

Mike Raj, from Whittington Heath, helped me continue with my training. I was attached there for a little bit. Another friend, Tom Palmer (from Great Barr), said that I could go down and help him with some group coaching to try and get my confidence back.

Then there’s Kevin Highfield, from Boldmere, who’s a really experienced guy. I went down there and explained my situation and asked if I could do some coaching, see how I go and see how far I could push myself. He actually was the proposer of my membership to The PGA.

Nicky Lumb as well (a PGA Master Professional and former Captain of The PGA) – he was in a position to help me. So there are so many people within The PGA network that I’m really grateful for – it’s been one hell of a ride really!

Where are you up to now in terms of your recovery?
I wouldn’t say I’m through it yet, in many ways, mentally or physically. I’ve got sensation issues on the left side of my body, and some other ongoing problems from the stroke, but I continue to have therapy and rehab with physios and neuro physios. I suppose, mentally, for me now it’s about accepting what’s happened.

I was a member of a golf club from the age of 10, I had lost all of my confidence in an environment where I used to be most comfortable.

I can struggle with self-doubt, but it’s something that I’m doing a lot better at now. I’ve found the mental difficulties almost as hard as the physical ones.

I started coaching again just before the first lockdown – at the end of 2019. Rehab is ongoing but I haven’t given up and I’m loving the coaching that I’m doing at the moment.

Tell us more about your coaching and the mental health project you’ve been working on
In June 2022, I was invited to coach for the Moving Lives, Healthy Minds 24-week programme, which is a Comic Relief-funded project giving adults who suffer with their mental health, access to physical activity to support their long-term recovery. This is accessible to patients referred via the Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Trust. I was able to provide the golf coaching element of the programme.

As I’ve battled with my own mental health as a result of what I’ve been through, I was in a unique situation because I was able to empathise with the participants and share my sport with them. Some people had played golf before, others were totally new to the game, but the benefits of golf remain the same. Golf is a form of eco-therapy, and we were able to utilise the green space within the city of Birmingham which a golf course provides, and that really benefited the wellbeing of the participants.

Any one of us can experience a difficult time in our lives, but I believe golf can have a positive mental impact on personal health journeys.

It’s definitely something that I’m really passionate about and as a result of my enthusiasm for the project, I’m now on a steering group for Golf on Prescription, so it’s great now to be working with experts from The R&A’s Golf and Health project.

I also deliver weekly junior golf sessions for the Golf Foundation’s Junior Golf Passport programme, as well as senior group lessons and individual lessons as well.

If any coaches in the Midlands need a hand, I’m also enjoying working alongside and supporting other coaches in the region, so I’d say get in touch!


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