Benedicte Finnema was 53 years old, and, like many Norwegians, she loved keeping fit and being an athlete. Then came a serious ski accident in 2016.
As she lay in hospital and then working through the long hours of rehab before later finally deciding to have her leg amputated, Benedicte was able to take a positive view by focusing on a unique personal list of things to look forward to, including playing golf.
Benedicte believes her personal resilience was first developed during a difficult childhood. Added to this was the realisation that, ultimately, learning to live without a leg is an intense personal challenge; it’s down to you – when you are ready. However, she has also discovered, helped by her family and friends (she has a daughter called Cathrine), that you don’t need to do all this alone. Benedicte has found a brother- and sisterhood in golf, and it’s one she loves.
We are talking with Benedicte at her golf club, Nordhaug Golf Club, near Oslo. Here, once a week, the Norwegian Golf Federation runs ‘GGG’, which translates as ‘Golf, Green, Happiness’. Benedicte volunteers as a team leader.
She first started playing golf 15 years ago. Benedicte says: “Then, in 2016, I was in a skiing accident, and, from that, I eventually lost my left leg in 2019. I hit a tree in the accident. So, my whole left side was smashed to pieces.
“I spent three months in hospital on my back and they tried like 12 or 13 different surgeries. I’d been in and out of the rehab centres and my only thought was to be able to walk again; and on my list, on my way back to life, there were three things. First was walking the dog, the second was, of course, playing golf, and the third was getting back into my kayak.”
Benedicte adds: “A psychologist said, ‘you have to set a plan, set a goal, follow the plan in order to reach your goal and you have to take it from there. So, what is the very number one thing you really want to do?’ For me, it was golf.”
Today, Benedicte talks of her regular trip to play golf. “It is when I’m driving to the club and I just go in there and get my bag, I’m in a different zone. I feel like I’m kind of home.
“With golf, I can be with others in the same boat, and we all just love to play golf, and it’s just amazing being part of that.”
Apart from her sport, her friend Ollie has been a constant source of inspiration.
“Ollie is a 12-year-old bearded Collie, and he was six years old when the accident happened. And this dog is my heart actually. So, I just wanted to do everything I could to take care of him the best I could. And, of course, to walk him because I was used to walking like 20K every day, but now we are actually on 10K every day.”
We asked Benedicte what advice she might give to a person who faces a similar set of challenges after accident or illness.
“First of all, they need to reach out when they’re ready. Then, you have to focus on your new life, design a new life. And in that life, you need to decide whether it’s going to be good or not. And if you want it to be good, you have to make a plan. Most of us play golf because we think it’s fun. So, it’s the fun thing that you need to focus on.”