OGA Members Course
It seems like a long time ago that Michael and I began playing Blind Golf. It was in the spring of 2001 and we couldn't wait to get started. We worked throughout the summer preparing and even worked with Ron Tristano, an USGA teaching professional at the Challenge Golf Center located in Akron. We had registered for the National/Open Championship that was slated for Sedgefield Country Club located outside Greensboro, North Carolina. We were all set to fly out to the tournament when the events of 911 took place. Needless to say the tournament was rescheduled but unfortunately, we were unable to make the new date and time. In 2002 work schedules again played havoc with our chances to go to Dallas for the National/Open Championship. In 2003 we were going to participate no matter what! AS you will read... IT WAS WELL WORTH THE WAIT!
Pictured Below Were Our Pairings For The Tournament
Practice Round Pairings
From left to right:
First Round Pairings
From left to right:
Second Round Pairings
From left to right:
Mark's Personal Reflections
Just a few comments regarding the tournament... As far as my play was concerned, I was never so confident in Mike's ability to align my shots and make most of the critical decisions. We did not discuss club selections at all... Mike chose every club for me and I never questioned any of his decisions. This enabled me only to concentrate on one thing, remain on plain throughout the swing. Mike remained confident the entire tournament, even when I stumbled a bit.
Even though our opening nine produced the highest score, 48, it may have set the tone for the rest of the tournament. I leaned over on my initial tee shot and hit it right of the world! As a result, I took a 9 on a Par 4. I continued to play rather poorly for a few more holes but I never felt down... I remember telling Michael, "I'm OK and we'll play out of this." We finished the nine with a couple pars and our positive feelings were reflected in the way we ended that first nine.
The second nine is still a blur to me but all I will say is that we were truly in sync and my concentration level was very high! All of my tee shots were in play and several were struck with authority. We got up and down with the 60 degree on a couple occasions and stuck one in on a par 3 for a birdie! The one thing I vividly remember is Mike's club selection on the approach shot on the final hole. In a nutshell, no pun intended considering we were playing through a hazelnut grove, Mike under clubbed me. There was a hazard left and trouble right. He did not want to flirt with either. I did hit an excellent shot that was right on the front fringe. We chipped up close and made a four footer for par. The result... The first time we have broken 40 in a competitive round, 39!
We were paired with the defending champion for the final round. We were 5 strokes up but I promised myself that I would not pay attention to anyone's play but my own. In my mind, I wanted to post a score of 90 or below. I felt that if I lost after shooting that score, then Denny deserved to win. All I will say is that we shot 89 and that was more than enough to win. The best compliment that Michael could have paid me was this... As we walked off the 18th green, he asked me if I knew what Denny shot. I told him that I knew he hadn't gained on us. Mike said, "That's not what I asked. I asked if you knew what his score was" I told him that I didn't have a clue. Mike just grinned and I knew what he was thinking. It was if he was telling me that I played the course and not the man. And, that is what needed to be done!
Below is the article that ran in the Medina Gazette on October 21, 2003
A National Champion
wins title with friend's help
The crystal trophy sat in the middle of a table in the pro shop at Rawiga Country Club. Proclaiming the holder as the Class B2 national champion, it was beautiful to Mark Arnold's touch. But Arnold couldn't see the trophy since his vision is 20/700 or thereabouts. The trophy signifies the Wadsworth resident as the national Open champ of the Lions Club International Foundation Blind Golfers Association.
Arnold won at the Oregon Golf Association member course in Canby, a 6,100-yard course laid out in a hazelnut grove. He shot 48-39-87 on the first day and 44-45-89 on the second.
Sitting next to Arnold, a 47 year-old vocational assessor at the Medina County Career Center, is one of the most important people in his life, Mike Schmock, his coach, mentor and best friend. Schmock is the guy who lines up the club head and points Arnold in the right direction for each shot. "Remember, Mark is legally blind," Schmock said of the score. "The average score for golfers nationwide, including the professionals, is 104 for 18 holes. Most golfers never break 100. His score on that course was remarkable."
Arnold beat 47 other golfers from Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the United States. Class B2 golfers range from 20/600 down to recognizing your hand in front of your face at one foot. "I probably have the best vision in my category," the modest Arnold said. "That needs to be qualified," Schmock jumped in. "I'm like 20-400 or 25/500 without my glasses. If Mark is 20/700, he doesn't see anything right in front of him. "People will see Mark walk around and think he's not necessarily vision impaired, but if we're on a golf course and the ball is 10 feet away from Mark, there's a good chance he's not going to see it. He may have an idea there's something on the ground, but he won't know what it is."
Arnold began playing golf when he was 12. His vision impairment, which is genetic, began its onset soon after. "My dad, Bill, encouraged me to play and was my first coach," Arnold said. "At 13, I could still see a wedge shot."
Arnold joined the Blind Golf Association a year ago and played in two tournaments, then helped bring an event here, cramming a year's worth of organizing into a period from February to July. As a consequence, he did not score well and finished far out of the top spot. "I met Mark on a golf course 18 years ago," said Schmock, a heavy equipment mechanic in the Cleveland area. "The first time I played with Mark and his dad, we had played three holes before his dad pointed out that he was legally blind. "Since I'm around him a lot, I've noticed more than anyone that in recent years, his eyesight has deteriorated a tremendous amount. When we first started playing together, he could see the pin, and if we told him what the distance was, he could walk up to his ball. He can't do that anymore. It just isn't happening." Schmock began to get emotional about his friend so Arnold jumped in. "It's just become very difficult for me to play on my own, and that's been something very difficult to let go of, if I'm being very honest," he said.
Several years ago, Arnold thought about giving up the game he loves, but then he was introduced to the Blind Golfers Association. One problem in recent times had been the way Schmock was lining up the ball. But after Rawiga where Arnold finished far off the pace, Arnold and Schmock got the problem worked out. "I told him he had to trust me that I had the club lined up right," Schmock said. "We hashed it out in Raleigh, where he got to the point where he'd turn his head so far he wasn't even looking at the ball. He kind of ignored what I was doing and his golf has gotten better." Just read the trophy for proof of his results.
"During the course of the last two days of the tournament in Portland, I'd set him up, he'd swing and we'd move on," Schmock said. "On the last two holes of the second day, we were playing with last year's champion and we had him down. "It was a 146-yard, par-3, down hill, which is a perfect 7-iron range for Mark. But I knew Mark and I knew he was going to guard his swing and leave the ball going right. So I gave him a 6-iron, pointed him left and told him to go ahead and make his swing. "He never questioned me and put it 12 feet away from the hole. He couldn't have done it any better."
Arnold chimed in that it's an ultimate team sport and team venture. He then went outside to the first tee, where in the fading afternoon light, Schmock set Arnold up for a couple of demonstration drives. Arnold's first drive was high and straight down the middle of the fairway, landing 250 yards out. His second shot was just a few ticks to the right and about the same distance. "Mark has a remarkably consistent swing." Schmock explained. Amen to that.
By Tom Suitts, Special to The Gazette
Below are the photos and the article that ran in the Trading Post on Sunday, October 12, 2003
Arnold Is National Golf Champ
Wadsworth has a national golf champion in its midst.
by Carrie Valentin
Mark Arnold, a life-long resident of Wadsworth, recently took home a first place trophy from the national golf tournament held in Portland, Oregon. The thing is...it is difficult for him to read the inscription on his two-foot high trophy. Why? Because he is visually impaired.
Mark, who has a degenerative eye disease, is a member of the Blind Golf Association, participating in golf tournaments throughout the U.S., classified as a "B2" golfer. This is defined as someone having limited vision--only light perception to visual acuity of 20/600.
The "B2" classification can be more easily explained by stating the following: What a fully-sighted person can see at 600 feet, he can only see at 20 feet. Mark's current vision stands at 20/600, although due to his illness known as Stargardt disease, it could progressively worsen, but generally this illness does not lead to total blindness.
Despite his eye disease, Mark racked up some impressive statistics during his recent Oregon victory. In four rounds of nine holes of golf, he shot a 48, a 39, a 44, and a 45. Many fully-sighted golfers would like to have score cards like that.
So, the question is: Being blind, HOW does he do this?
It's basic really. Arnold is the "muscle" behind these victories, and his coach, Michael Schmock, is his "eyes".
In Mark's words, "Blind golfing is the ultimate team sport."
Where Mark must concentrate on his swing, it is up to his coach and friend Michael to judge distance, select the club, align the shot, and make adjustments. Once addressing the ball, Mark explained how he must "loosen up on the grip while Michael opens or closes the head of the club." Then, it is all in Mark's hands to swing away with the information given to him by Michael.
Coach and golfer must obviously be in tune with each other to successfully win tournaments. Said Mark, "Our level of communication is good, no doubt about it...he knows my swing better than I do."
Although success at golf would be impossible without his coach, Mark says that he seems to always get all the glory when there is a victory. Said Mark, "It's also quite an endeavor for the coach."
The entire blind golf touring process is in fact an endeavor for, not only Mark and his coach, but also for the families involved. For example, Mark explained that his recent national victory, as well as his regional first place showing in Raleigh, NC, might be explained by the bracelet given to him by his daughter. He now wears it as his good luck charm.
Incorporating the "family endeavor" concept further, Michael's wife Cheryl accompanied the golfing team to the national tournament, acting as golf cart driver as well as being the unofficially designated photographer and "nutrition guide", reminding Mark to keep up his energy by eating properly while on the course.
Both Michael's wife Cheryl and Mark's wife Brenda would like to accompany the golfing duo as they embark on the next stop on the golf tour. See, with the victory at the national tournament, Mark has now qualified for the World Championship in Melbourne, Australia. Of course, the husbands and wives would like to go together. But, according to Mark, that is going to take thousands of dollars.
Explaining that he does get meals and hotels paid for by the Blind Golf Association, Mark is responsible for his travel costs, such as air fare for himself, his coach, and the wives. Looking for sponsorship, Mark directs anyone interested to visit his website.
Although the arrangements for travel to the World Championship blind golf tournament have yet to be made, Mark seems confident that all of the financial details will work themselves out over time. To quote his website, "Trust for a visually impaired golfer is everything!"
Photos by Cheryl Schmock
Click on the link below to read the October 10, 2003 Golf World article
Golf World Magazine
Click on the link below to read the article from the Woodburn Independent, a Portland area newspaper
Special thanks to all the faculty and staff at the Medina County Career Center for acknowledging my accomplishment and presenting me with this wonderful cake!
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