The U.S. team, which includes USBGA President David Meador of Nashville and Jim Baker of Hermitage, Tenn., will face off against 46 other blind or partially blind golfers representing Australia, Austria, Canada, England & Wales, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, and South Korea. The World Blind Golf Championships will occur from 8 a.m-1 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the Truro Golf Club. Tournament trophies will be presented at 7 p.m. July 17. Members of the general public may observe the games at no charge.
(Photo: David Meador (right) works with golf coach Everett Davis.)
"Every place we go, people tell us they had no idea blind people could play golf," said Meador, who lost his eyesight in an automobile accident at age 18. "Playing on the international stage gives us the opportunity to educate the public about blindness issues and also show that anything is possible."
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To be eligible to compete on the international level, a blind golfer must have played in seven sanctioned rounds of golf and have impaired vision worse than 20/200. Golfers will compete in categories ranging from totally blind (B-1) and little usable vision (B-2) to better usable vision (B-3). Winners in those categories will receive trophies designating them as the best blind or vision-impaired golfers in the world.
All eight U.S. competitors will be accompanied by coaches who "act as their eyes". The coaches meet their blind partners for breakfast, drive them to the golf course, manage their equipment, develop game-playing strategies, and provide directional advice for each hole. The golfers do all of the swinging, putting, slicing, blocking and birdying. Several USBGA golfers have hit a hole in one.
"For someone like me, playing in a tournament like this is an opportunity to re-connect with the game of golf," said Brian MacLeod, an IBGA board member and Canadian competitor who lost his eyesight following a hockey-related injury at age 29. "We totally depend on our coaches to strategize and manage the course. When you lose, your coach feels the heartache, too. When you win, he or she is ecstatic. Golf is the ultimate team sport."
Members of the U.S. team are Jim Baker (with coach Kyle Seeley) of Nashville, Tenn.; Harry Hester (with coach Randy Nutt) of Austin, Texas; David Meador (with temporary Canada-based coach Gerald Buott) of Nashville; Ron Plath (with coach Chuck St. Clair) of Lake Oswego, Oregon; Jeremy Poincenot (with coach Lionel Poincenot) of Carlsbad, Calif.; Ty Thompson (with coach Richard Barnhisel) of Lexington, Ky.; Diane Wilson (with coach Byron Wilson) of Port Ludlow, Wash.; and Scott Wilson (with coach Vicky Wilson) of Ontario, Oregon.
"We're delighted to have Jeremy Poincenot on the U.S. team," Meador added. "He earned the best overall net score in the world in the year 2010. We would love to see that happen again, but the competition is always very stiff."
Some members of the U.S. team will practice for the World Championships by competing in the Canadian Blind Golf Open Championship at the Mountain Golf Club near Truro, Nova Scotia, from July 11-13.
To make the world games possible, the organizing committee had to raise more than $180,000 from businesses, organizations and individuals. Tournament sponsors include Lions Clubs of Nova Scotia, radio station 109.9-FM Big Dog, the municipality of Colchester, Best Western, WestJet, Aggregate Equipment, and the town of Truro. The funds pay for green fees, lodging, and meals for almost 100 golfers and coaches from around the world. Competitors pay for their own transportation.
The United States Blind Golf Association was founded in 1953 by blind golfer and lawyer Bob Allman. The organization today conducts three tournaments annually and holds more than a dozen clinics for blind and vision-impaired children through its junior blind golf program. The USBGA also has a Hall of Fame that honors legendary players and contributing organizations. The association's 67th annual USBGA National Championship will occur from Aug. 6-7 at the Middle Bay Country Club in Long Island, N.Y.
"Yes, we're about golf, but what we're really about is demonstrating for adults and children alike that absolutely nothing's impossible through partnership," Meador added.
The International Blind Golf Association was organized and funded by Japanese entrepreneur Dr. Hirahusa Handa in 1998, with the USBGA being one of seven founding members. The IBGA is made up of 13 member countries and five associates. Its biennial World Blind Golf Championships rotate from country to country, with the United States being a possible host in 2014. To see a video of IBGA members competing in the championships, visit http://www.internationalblindgolf.com/about/video.
For more information about the World Blind Golf Championships, call (902) 895-7476 or visit http://www.InternationalBlindGolf.com or http://nova.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/nova12/event/nova1214/index.htm. To learn more about joining or supporting the United States Blind Golf Association, call (615) 385-0784, send an email inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.USBlindGolf.com.