PHIL MICKELSON’S historic PGA Championship title is driving golfer-turned-wheelchair rugby ace Chris Ryan towards Paralympic glory.

Welwyn’s Ryan is the Great Britain captain and was this week officially selected in the ParalympicsGB squad for Tokyo.

Golf-obsessed Ryan, 29, played off a handicap of two as a teenager before a car crash in 2008 turned his sporting career on its head.

He loved watching Mickelson, 50, become the oldest major winner at Kiawah Island last month and says channelling the spirit of the American can propel his team to victory in Tokyo.

Welwyn-born Ryan, one of over 1,000 athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, said: “It’s incredible to be selected.

“That’s what we’ve trained for throughout all the last four years. We have other events, but this is the one we all want to get selected for and try and win.

“I’m a bit of a sport nut – and I still follow my golf. I was in bed watching Phil win the PGA – it was on pretty late, but I did watch the last half an hour.

“It was pretty cool to see, with him and Tiger [Woods] winning these majors so late into their careers, it really shows how great they are. They’re great stories.

“I think sport is a very unifying thing – but especially things like Olympic and Paralympic Games. A lot of people watch sport that they don’t watch during the Games, so I think everyone gets behind it and the teams.

“It’s a unifying experience and when any of us teams at the Paralympics can bring some joy to people back home, it’s brilliant.”

Ryan’s wheelchair rugby career has been fuelled by UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme that allows him to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

He captained the ParalympicsGB team in Rio where they narrowly missed out on a podium spot after two gut-wrenching group stage defeats to Australia and Canada.

GB finished third in their group and despite a fifth-place finish with a win against Sweden, Ryan – who competes for London Wheelchair Rugby Club – was far from satisfied.

His team have racked up a pair of European Championship titles since then, however, and Ryan reckons his players have what it takes to rise to the top in Tokyo.

Ryan, who is determined to add to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997, added: “Our aim is to win gold.

“It would be massive. We feel we can beat any of the teams if we bring our very best and play like we know we can for the whole duration of the game. We feel we can win it.

“It would mean an immense amount. We’ve had a few wins in international tournaments now and have got a bit more experience – we’re in good shape.

“I think we’re more equipped experience-wise – and we’re looking to top the podium. That’s our goal and we’ve got to beat everyone in our way.”

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has on sport at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo