Bennett Ward - Blind Golf! Are you Joking?
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"Blind Golf! Are you joking?" - that's usually the reply I get when I tell people I play golf, blind golf. People often think I'm having a laugh, but I can assure you blind golf is as serious as normal sighted golf.

I first became interested in the game back in 1994, when due to a degenerative eye disease I was unable to continue working. A resource worker for the blind came to visit me at home and we got chatting as to what I was going to do. I joked "When I was a teenager, I tried golf, but was unable to give time to practise; now I've got the time but not the sight!" She told me about the Scottish Blind Golf Society. After a phone call, and my membership fees were paid, I became a member of the West of Scotland Blind Golf Society.

Blind golfers play to the same rules as sighted golfers with the exception that we can ground our club in a hasard i.e. bunker. It's all rather more of a team effort than an individual sport. Partially sighted and blind people need help from a "guide"(caddie).

Obviously we cannot see the green, so we need help to line us up for the flag, select the right club, line up putts and, of course, have someone to blame when the shot goes wrong! A good guide is worth his weight in gold. He must be patient and understanding and it helps if he's a good golfer as well.

Since joining the SBGS I have been to more places than ever before, met loads of new friends and I have a sense of achievement. Tournaments are played all over the U.K. and Ireland and I've played some pretty prestigious courses like Turnberry, Glen Eagles, Downfield and Dalmahoy. I've played golf in England, Eire, Northern Ireland, and all over Scotland. I've had my share of success. Last year, 2000, I tied 11th in the World Blind Golf Championship, played over two days at Dalmahoy. Competitors came from all over the world - Japan, Australia, America, Canada, Eire and the U.K. I also finished 5th in the Order of Merit and played in the Scottish national squad against England and Northern Ireland. Oh, and I had a hole in one at the 9th hole at Maybole golf course.

In 1999 I won the Scottish Strokeplay Championship, played over two days at the Glen golf course, North Berwick. I tell you all this not because I'm a big head but to emphasise that anyone can take part in any sport, as long as you have an able bodied person to help.

From the Ayrshire Post of 15 October, 1999

When I started playing in 1994, I honestly could not hit the ball, never mind, send it down the fairway. I turned to my brother in law, Peter Conway. He has stuck with me ever since and is my guide, coach and good friend.

Last year in preparation for the World Championship, I wrote to Brian Gunson, the Director of Golf at Turnberry. I was looking for some professional help and use of the course. Much to my delight, Brian agreed and I've been playing at Turnberry ever since. Brian and the Westin Company, which owns Turnberry golf course, hotel and spa, have been very kind and generous. All the staff are genuinely warm and friendly and I've never felt anything but welcome. Being a Maybole man and living only a few miles down the road, I'm very proud of my connection with Turnberry golf course. Maybole the ancient capital of Carrick and the surrounding district has some real treasures to boast of and Turnberry golf course is one of the gems.

Take care, and watch this space for updates.