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TPC Sawgrass to host Ryder Cup-style event for blind golfers


England’s John Eakin registered blind, will lead the Rest of the World squad against North America in the fifth Vision Cup this week.

This week’s two-day Ryder Cup-style tournament will take place on the illustrious Florida course, which is famous for its par-three island hole. Teams of 14 blind players will face off against one another in a matchplay format.

Eakin has participated in three of the four previous competitions, three of which have seen the victorious team be the Rest of the World since it was first held in 2013.

They have some talented players, but so do we, claims Eakin. “It’s competitive, but meeting other visually challenged golfers has been entertaining, and I hope everyone plays nicely. So be it if we lose.

In his late 40s, Eakin, now 64, began to lose his eyesight, and now he only has 10% of his center vision. He played off a handicap of three when he had full sight, but today he shoots a very respectable 10.

He claims that when his sight initially started to go, he was “very gloomy and difficult to deal with.” Eakin adds with a chuckle, “I stopped playing golf for nearly a year, though my wife would tell you it was more like four weeks.

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But after that, he discovered England and Wales Blind Golf, which he claims has throughout the years been “a huge source of consolation.” According to Eakin, there are “around 50 members,” but finding guides and spotters is the main challenge.

A team sport is a blind golf. Each player uses a handbook to set up their shots, position the clubhead behind the ball, provide yardage distances, and explain the terrain.

Then, spotters precisely exactly that, watching for errant shots. As a result, more people are being encouraged to join the game recently.

Players in the B1 category are either blind to light in either eye or have light sensitivity but cannot recognize forms from any angle or distance.

The partial vision amount is poor for B2 and B3 players, with B2 players having a lower level than B3.

The United States Blind Golf Association is organizing the Vision Cup on Tuesday. Each team will have two ladies and four players in the B1, B2, and B3 categories.

Four players from England, three from Scotland, and others from South Africa, Australia, Austria, and Israel will be on Eakin’s team.

In contrast, players from Canada, the United States, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico will make up the North American team.

Eakin belongs to the B3 category and has been a Royal Ashdown Forest in East Sussex member for 35 years, including a year as captain in 2014.

He claims that my face appears blurred and colorless even though I am six feet away from him. He smiles and replies, “I’ve got an advantage,” when I inquire what he can see of the ball. The ball becomes a little bit larger due to the blurring.

He emphasizes that even though he is familiar with his home course, he still needs a guide and their connection is essential to their success.

He adds that his wife, who “hates golf,” has guided him and “thinks it’s amusing when I lose my anger,” before saying that having solid golfing knowledge is beneficial but not necessary.

His regular tour guide is Chris Vaughan, but Steve Killick, who has led Eakin on several occasions, will be present in Florida.

When I make a poor shot, Chris is always silent, while Steve typically chuckles, and the golfer continues. “I feel at ease with both.”

Regarding advice on the shot he will take, Eakin, asserts that “sometimes it’s better to not know everything.”

I was referring primarily to Sawgrass’ par-three 17th hole; a 132-yard hole played entirely over water to an island green that even the world’s greatest players dread.

To give competitors a chance to take on the famous course, all matches will begin on the 10th hole.

Eakin remarks, “So much is in your brain. “I sometimes think that knowing everything is a waste of time. Many B1 players want to know too much, but you must determine with your mentor.

What is a blind golfer’s most challenging shot? He responds, “Some blind golfers detest rough, but I believe wild is more complicated.

“It’s only a drop if your ball falls in the water. It is challenging to knock your ball out in rough. My course has a lot of heathers, so I drop my ball and play to my strengths these days.

But putting is, regrettably, the trickiest stroke.

Although I can see the ball, I cannot determine if the putter’s face was open or closed at contact. Moreover, I am unable to detect slight slopes on the greens.

I must rely on my guidance and pace my putts as a result. For example, my guide could inform me that the putt is a six-foot strength putt if it is 12 feet long and downward.

“For this reason, Sawgrass will be challenging. We’ll get to the greens in two or three strokes, but I anticipate it will take much longer.


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