Our new guest blogger Jess Ratcliffe is here to tell us her lockdown golf story, how she feel in love with golf and her quest to get to single figures

Putting the phone down, I thought “I can’t even walk my dogs?”

I’ve had two monumental phone calls in my life. The first in January 2016, when I was 25-years-old and diagnosed with a life-threatening, one-in-a-million blood disease called Paroxysmal Nocturnal Haemoglobinuria (PNH).

I know, try capturing that on a post-it note with your phone in one hand and the only pen you could find in the other!

In a nutshell, having PNH means that I create abnormal blood cells; cells that don’t have the coating they need to survive and not stick together, forming blood clots (the leading cause of death in PNH).

Even though having a “life-threatening” condition isn’t the easiest thing to swallow, I feel incredibly lucky that PNH has (mostly) had a positive impact on my life.

So far, the day-to-day impact is minimal, until the lead up to my two-monthly treatment, when I feel drained of my normal energy levels and a fog falls over my mind. But then I get my treatment (an infusion), which I call my Superwoman Juice, and feel like I’m on full charge again.

That’s why, at the beginning of the pandemic, when news of Covid-19 was coming in and people were being told to shield, it didn’t even occur to me that that might be me.

This is where our second phone call comes in. A week before the UK was told to lockdown in March 2020, I was told to shield for 12 weeks. To not even walk my dogs.

Now those 12 weeks feel like a grain of sand in a bunker, but at the time, I didn’t know how I was going to do it – to stay inside for so long. So I threw myself into my business, spending endless hours on my laptop and phone, trying desperately to take my mind off the fear of the unknown.

Falling in love with golf

Little did I know that shielding (and PNH) would change my life (again).

Fast forward to September and I found myself watching a golf competition on TV. I have to confess that past-Jess would have changed channels quicker than Lexi Thompson’s clubhead speed but something kept me watching. Maybe it was the bright blue skies or the fact it all seemed so quiet and peaceful, with the “get in the hole” crowds still at home.

I was hooked, mesmerised, curious. Before I knew it, I found myself saying four little words that would start it all…“I could do that”.

It looked like a dream – being outside, completely focused on something other than work or the worries of the pandemic and doing something physical rather than digital.

Within the week, I signed up to the academy at my local golf club (West Surrey), without even visiting the course first. I was that keen.

The academy, headed up by Duncan Giblett, helped me get started with access to lessons, the range and afternoon tee times to help me build my confidence on the course.

They say love finds you when you’re least looking for it and before long, I was in love with golf. It took over my mind, my reading list and from August 2021 on, my calendar. That’s when I joined West Surrey as a full member and got my first ever handicap of 34.1.

That number sparked my ambition to improve and like someone in love, I was ready to go all in.

Through the ups, the downs, the sun, the rain, I’ve been working hard to improve my game and handicap as much as possible.

The hunt for single figures

In less than 6 months, I’ve cut my handicap from 34.1 to 17.0, by building up my swing with my golf coach, Hannah Ralph and spending many hours practising and playing, trying to put what I’m learning into action on the course.

And I don’t want to stop here. My big goal is to reach single figures by the end of May 2022. I know, it’s big!

Is it possible? I hope so. Is it scary to share my goal with you, knowing I might not make it? Oh yes. But am I going to give it my best shot? Absolutely, because I’m still madly in love.

I’ve got a lot to work on to reach my goal and play consistently at that level but I’m excited for the challenge and where my golf journey might take me.

I’ll be charting my journey with Women & Golf, so if you have any questions you would like me to answer in next month’s piece or you simply want to say hello, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me on Instagram or [email protected].