"It's In The Game"
Story by: Jason Horton
For your reading enjoyment- the article below is from
The Woodburn Independent, October 1, 2003
Imagine putting a blindfold over your eyes and heading out to the golf course for a round of 18 holes. For 45 golfers this past Monday and Tuesday,
that is their reality.
The Blind Golf Association held its annual national event at the OGA Members Course at Tukwila, in Woodburn. The event was sponsored by the
Lions Club International, a leading advocate for the blind. "We've aided people in blindness and led an effort to say blind people aren't just people
walking around with white sticks," said Bill Rollins, international director for the Lions Club. "They can be mainstream just like anyone else."
The Lions Club has taken over responsibility for the national golf tournament on a three-year commitment. Last year's event was held in Fort Worth, Texas
and next year's tournament may be held in Reno, Nevada. "We decided to fund their golf events for three years and see where that goes," Rollins
said. "We're giving them $100,000 and that goes a long ways.
|This tournament isn't just about blind people playing golf." Amber Kern is the executive director for the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation, and
she said people of all ages benefit from this.
"On Monday we held a charity event and we had a golf clinic for kids at the Oregon and Washington schools for the blind," she said. "It was an incredible
day. The kids had a blast. Many of them had never played before, but they were hitting the ball 200 yards."
The Lions are spearheading efforts in China and North Korea to help the blind as well. "We've formed an alliance with the Chinese government and have helped
train Chinese doctors on how to do cataract surgery," Rollins said. "We've done over two million surgeries so far and will be doing another two million
in the next year. "We've also given $8 million to build an eye hospital in North Korea. The foundation is already in and that will be operating soon,"
Rollins added. At the Woodburn event, golfers from all over the country, and the world were on hand. There were golfers from Scotland, Canada, Great Britain,
and Northern Ireland among the international contingent.
Golfers are broken up into three divisions. Class B-1 is for individuals that are completely blind. Class B-2 is for people with 20-600 vision and Class
B-3 is for those whose sight is 20-200. "Each player has a coach and they do anything from setting up the shot to walking out the putt," Kern said. "A
lot depends on how impaired the golfer is and how much help they want."
| Bill McMahon is a B-1 golfer and has been on the Blind
Golf tour for the past 18 years.
Twelve of those years have been spent with his current coach, Kevin Sullivan, a teaching pro from Framingham, Mass. Both McMahon and Sullivan are from
the Boston area and McMahon said there's a lot of trust between player and coach. "There has to be," he said. "We've been together for 12 years and that's
really a long time."
Coaches are much more than just glorified caddies. "I have to change the club face, make changes to the grip or stance," Sullivan said. "I'm his eyes on
the golf course. I describe everything to him. We really do everything but hit the ball." Some coaches walk off shots for the players, others walk with
the player so they can get a feel themselves. "(Bill) can't see anything, so I really have to tell him everything that's around him," Sullivan said. "I
want him to feel like he knows what his surroundings are."
Bill McMahon & Kevin Sullivan
The 36-hole two-day event ended on Wednesday and Phil Blackwell won the B-1 division with a 189, Mark Arnold won the B-2 division with a 176 and Bruce
Hooper was the top B-3 golfer, finishing with a 167.
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