When the opening shots of the new Lancashire county golf season unfold next month, no-one will be more relieved than Burnley’s Michael Hunt.
The experienced Red Rose county player had to write off the whole of last season after a fall at home left him with a shattered shoulder.
There were times during the long rehabilitation when Hunt, who has 76 Lancashire caps, feared his top-level golfing career may be over.
But his desire and pride in representing his county means the 38-year- old’s name once again appears in the Lancashire ranks, this time for the traditional curtain- raiser to the new season.
The annual fixture between the Red Rose county and a team from the Southport and District Golf Association takes place on April 2nd at Formby Golf Club.
Hunt, who plays out of Pleasington Golf Club, is delighted to be back: “Players have come in while I have been out and done well,” he said, “so I am under no illusions that I have got a fight on my hands to win back my place. But I love playing for Lancashire, and to think I am one of the 12 who pulls on that county shirt is a source of real pride for me.
“It would be great if myself and John Carroll, who also has 76 caps, could go on and reach 100 together. But I know I have got to prove myself worth a place all over again as early in the season as possible.”
Hunt was heading out for a friendly game of golf with former Lancashire teammate Tommy Fleetwood, when he fell down the stairs, thinking at first that he had merely dislocated his shoulder.
But, he had smashed the inside of his shoulder socket as well as damaging ligaments – and found himself undergoing a five-hour operation to put things right.
“It is a bit like a pig in a blanket now,” he says, “as the surgeon had to wrap muscle round the joints to make sure they would work smoothly in the future. I couldn’t do anything at all for the first six to eight weeks and it was very painful, but the surgeon and the team have done a great job.”
He admits he has had to be patient while the healing process took its time: “I decided there was no point rushing things and not coming back 100% right. To have gained the odd game of golf but risked longer term damage did not seem worth it to me.
“There was a time when I was taking umpteen morphine tablets a day and I could not even lift a coffee cup to my lips – but I am not one for giving up. I would always have found a way to get the golf ball round – even if it meant playing one-handed or as a leftie!”