Dustin Boydell’s golf shot is rocketing across social media.

It doesn’t compare to the sonic blasts of Bryson DeChambeau or the pinpoint irons of Phil Mickelson, but, for Boydell, it’s magic.

Three years ago, Boydell, who lives in British Columbia, Canada, was paralyzed from the waist down by a spinal abscess. At 31 years old, Boydell’s life changed drastically, especially after doctors told him he probably would never walk again.

That background makes the shot, hit using a plastic ball on a makeshift teebox in a physical therapy facility, particularly spectacular. With minimal assistance from a therapist in position behind him, Boydell hits a solid shot that, on a golf course, probably would produce praise from competitors. It was a shining moment after years of rehabilitation and therapy.

It gave Boydell, once a 2 handicap and a player since the age of 9, hope that he could one day hit the links again.

“It’s all positive,” Boydell said. “It gives me a lot of encouragement to keep going.”

After being posted on Twitter, the video picked up viewer numbers quickly. Mickelson was among those responding.

“It’s still growing and taking off,” Boydell said. “It’s something I didn’t expect. I have a few friends and a few followers on Twitter, and I tagged Phil Mickelson on there mostly as a joke. I was so impressed by his (PGA Championship) win.

“I’ve been trying to raise awareness for spinal cord injuries and to do my part to be an advocate for that. It’s been a difficult road because I’m still going through recovery. To have something like this be out there to let people see that life isn’t over after a spinal injury is heartwarming and humbling for me.”

Of course, Boydell has larger goals than simply returning to the golf course and resuming that part of his life. He hopes to continue to improve in all ways physically and to keep outrunning the prognosis that would have limited him to a wheelchair forever.

“Once you have a disability, you immediately start to struggle economically because the opportunities aren’t the same as far as work goes,” he said. “You’re going through health issues and nerve and chronic pain. The bladder and bowel don’t work the same. Everything below where the injury happened is paralyzed. Dealing with that takes up a good portion of life.”

Before the surgery, Boydell was an industrial electrician. He was active in general, playing golf and hockey. In fact, he said, he played hockey three days before back pain – he thought he had pulled a muscle – sent him to the doctor. Now he’s focusing full-time on recovery, and successes like his ability to smartly slap a golf ball provide hope that bigger things are in the future.

“The first two years after the injury, I swung a club once or twice, and I felt so weak that it was depressing,” he said. “I put my clubs in the garage and didn’t look at them any more. But then I started to try to introduce sports back into my physical therapy by using golf and hockey for a lot of exercises.

“The golf swing now is comfortable. It takes me a lot longer to get my balance and address the ball, and it’s still a little difficult to find consistency. I can’t feel the bottoms of my feet, so I have to guess about weight placement. Overall, it feels safe. I don’t feel like I’m going to fall down any more when I swing.

“I’ve gotten to the point where I can walk some without any walking aids. When I stand, I still need a cane for balance. And a slight breeze can still blow me over.”

Boydell said he hopes to go to a driving range soon and get a better idea of the progress he’s made.

“I need to see if I can make consistent contact driver through wedge,” he said. “Trying to stand still over a putt will be interesting – and difficult. If I can put the effort into golf that I’ve been putting into my recovery, I truly think I can compete against able-bodied golfers. I’d absolutely love to play at some sort of competitive level and be an inspiration for people with spinal cord injuries. And to challenge myself.”

Boydell said none of the progress he’s made in the past three years would have been possible without the help of his wife, Brittany, daughter Brook and son Oliver. Brittany has been on the front lines of the COVID pandemic fight as an emergency room registration clerk in addition to sharing Dustin’s long and tough journey.

“She’s an absolute warrior,” Boydell said. “I don’t know how she gets up every day dealing with the stresses of my injury and going to work and seeing death every day, then still comes home and has enough love and energy for me and the kids. She is my hero.

“There aren’t enough words for the amount of support and positivity she and kids bring into my life. My kids have seen me right through the injury and all. They see me as still being Dad. They definitely keep me going and give me different goals to strive for. One of the silver linings of all this is that I’ve been able to stay home and be with them more, to be a dad.”

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.