Blind golfers hit the links for guide-dog fundraiser
The Arizona Republic
May. 5, 2007 12:00 AM
SCOTTSDALE - Imagine playing 18 holes with your eyes closed, trying to make par in total darkness.
Blind golfers play that way every time they hit the links. Some have no sense of the location of the ball or the
distance. Others can see shadows or glimmers of light, but still need extra help.
So they play with coaches who can line up their shots and tell them how much torque to put on a swing.
"All it takes is to hit the sweet spot once in 200 times at it's worth it," said Angela O'Rourke, one of 10 blind golfers
who played Friday as part of this week's Heather Farr Leader Dogs Classic at Starfire Golf Club in Scottsdale.
The 17th-annual tournament was expected to raise nearly $50,000 to buy a guide dog for a blind person and send
them to a Michigan training center to get acquainted with their new companion.
O'Rourke, whose dog Faith joined her for this week's tournament, went blind after a near-fatal car accident in 1991.
The retired Army colonel, who lives part-time in Mesa, is considered one of the top blind golfers in the U.S.
O'Rourke said she started golfing after she lost her sight after suffering head trauma and a number of other serious
injuries in a collision with a truck.
Every round of golf is a gift, but blind golfers still have their fears.
Tournaments, like the one named after the local LPGA golfer Heather Farr - who died in 1993 at age 28, after a
struggle with breast cancer - give them a chance to network and share ideas on how to solve the many daily
problems that come with visual impairment.
"When I get to the 13th or 14th hole, I'm fighting mentally to quit," said O'Rourke, who holds doctorates in education
and counseling. "There's not a blind golfer out there who's not a champion."
This week's tournament was co-sponsored by Leader Dogs for the Blind, a Rochester, Mich.-based non-profit group.
Through golf, the organization has trained more than 14,000 guide dogs for the blind.
This year's tournament included former NBA player Scott Williams, who played in a charity event Friday, along with
dozens of local golfers.
Phil Hubbard, 40, traveled from Deland, Fla. to compete.
Hubbard, a high school teacher who lost most of his sight to a hereditary disorder when he was 19 years old, said he
enjoys golfing despite not being able to see the course.
But just like any golfer, Hubbard - a member of the United States Blind Golfers Association - tries to smile through the
divots and sliced shots that come with playing the game.
"When it becomes a chore, it's time to quit," he said. "Especially for us, since we have to work so hard at it anyway."
Reach the reporter at michael .firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-6843.