The remarkable story of Mike Browne comes full circle this September, as he assumes the captaincy of Team GB for the seventh edition of the Simpson Cup to be played at The Maidstone Club. The left-leg amputee hadn’t so much as hit a golf ball this time five years ago. Today, he is a professional golfer who has already enjoyed two fruitful seasons on Spain’s Gecko Tour, and racked up a number of Ws. He also stormed to victory at this year’s South African Disabled Open, and, for good measure, even pummelled a 565-yard rocket to triumph in the recent RAF Honington Long Drive contest (which took place on a runway) - a feat which will be entered into the Guinness World Records as the longest drive by an amputee.
Yet despite this whirlwind of success so early into his professional career, it is clear how highly the Simpson Cup ranks in the pecking order.
“I feel very privileged to be captain of Team GB for the 2018 Simpson Cup,” the 40-year old beamed. “For me personally, both On Course Foundation (OCF) and the Simpson Cup mean a great deal. After becoming a member of OCF in 2014, I made my debut later that year at Congressional, which was my first real taste of major golfing competition. From where I was five years ago, having never played golf previously, to leading Team GB, is an overwhelming experience, and I can’t wait to get onto the first tee at Maidstone to try and help Britain win back the Cup.”
It may well feel like a lifetime ago for Browne now, but he served his entire adult career within the British Armed Forces. However, in 2011, a terrible injury cut his tenure as a serviceman short, and, following a number of setbacks during a two-year rehabilitation period, it was determined that his left leg needed to be amputated - above the knee.
Yet it was at his lowest ebb that he came across an OCF poster, promoting the power of good that the charity can do for injured veterans through golf. With his interest piqued, he met with John Simpson - who himself only has one fully-functioning leg - to find out more about OCF. Not long after, he held a club for the first time at one of the charity's golf events, and it's safe to say he hasn't looked back since.
He got his first handicap of 28 in the summer of 2014, and a year later, he was down to a four. By September 2016, things had ramped up significantly, and, shortly after the Simpson Cup at Oak Hill, he made the decision to join the paid ranks.
"After turning professional, the first year was such a big learning curve," Browne recalls. "I gave myself 12 months to learn about the game as a professional golfer because it’s so different from amateur golf; having to play so many different shots on such long courses. You don't appreciate how big the step up is until you make it."
But make it he has, and he’s already demonstrated that he belongs, winning a number of events, and showing that he can go low with a 66 at a recent tournament.
"I think the reason I have become a better player over the past few years is almost 100% down to mental strength, and a fresh perspective," he explained. "When I first turned pro I didn’t feel like I belonged in the pro game. But with a lot of training and self-belief, I have now found my feet and believe in myself, and my game is speaking for itself."
The power of the mind in the game of golf is undoubtedly crucial. But conquering doubts, in itself, is insufficient to carve out a successful career as a playing professional. Behind the scenes, there is plenty of hard work going into the Wiltshire-man's budding success too.
"An average day for me starts at the gym, after which I put the focus on specific areas of my game. For example, on a Monday, I will spend hours working on my short game; on Tuesday it will be all about putting, then Wednesday is long game. Generally, I try and spend about 75% of my time on short game throughout the week."
Browne continued: "My plans for the future are ultimately to play as much competitive golf as I can. The thing with me - my golfing ability far outweighs my golfing experience, so the more competitions I play, the more experience I can gain.
"Longer term, I am planning on simply being competitive, and staying healthy and fit. I’m going to do a few of the (European) Tour School qualifiers this year as well, so you never know what will happen."
There is a quiet confidence about Browne when he speaks. The talk of a man who appreciates both his limitations, and the challenges presented to him by a late start to this new choice of career. However, there is no mistaking his tremendous strengths, and perhaps the hardships he's endured in the past will be his greatest asset in his bid to take things to the next level.
First though, there is the business of winning back the Simpson Cup for his country at Maidstone next month, and he is just barely able to contain his excitement and optimism at the prospect.
"To be honest, I didn’t really know anything about Maidstone at first," Browne admitted. "But since finding out it was going to host the Simpson Cup, I've been doing my research, and it's clearly going to be something special.
"As for the result, I’m not predicting anything yet - I'll leave that to the lads. But what I will say with absolute certainty is that this is going to be one hell of a show."