Some 25 blind and visually impaired golfers will compete in the 67th annual United States Blind Golf Association National Championship in Oceanside, N.Y., on Long Island from Aug. 6-7.
Competitors will include Michael McKone of Warwick. Other golfers will come from as far away as California and Oregon to vie for the title of "best blind or visually impaired golfer in the nation." The USBGA National Championship tournament will run from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Monday and 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Middle Bay Country Club, just 26 miles from New York City's Times Square. Hall of Fame and tournament trophy presentations will occur at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Members of the general public may observe the games at no charge.
"Every place we go, people tell us they had no idea blind people could play golf," said USBGA President David Meador, who lost his eyesight in an automobile accident at age 18. "Playing in the nation's largest city gives us the opportunity to educate the public about blindness issues and also show that anything is possible."
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 nation. To be eligible to compete on the national level, a blind golfer must have impaired vision worse than 20/200 and have scored 125 or less (B-1), 110 or less (B-2) or 100 or less (B-3) in three qualified rounds of golf.
All 25 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, including competitor Sheila Drummond of Lehighton, Penn., have hit holes-in-one. Drummond was the first blind female player to accomplish that feat.
"For someone like me, playing in a tournament like this is an opportunity to connect with the game of golf," said tournament organizer and USBGA member Ted Fass, who lost his sight at the age of 11. "I am honored to chair the championship as I enjoy the competition along with the ability to increase the awareness of blind golf."
The competition will be stiff. Four of this year's national tournament competitors placed in the top five in various categories of the 2012 World Blind Golf Championships in Truro, Nova Scotia. Jim Baker and David Meador placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in the B-1 Men's Gross category. Baker also placed second in the B-1 Men's Net category. Defending world net champion Jeremy Poincenot placed second in the B-2 Men's Gross category. Scott Wilson took third place in the B-3 Men's Gross category and second place in the B-3 Men's Net category.
To make the national tournament possible, the organizing committee had to raise more than $40,000 from businesses, organizations and individuals. Company tournament sponsors include The Gilbert Co., The Mineola Lions Club and Creative Staffing. The funds pay for green fees, lodging and meals for 50 golfers and coaches from across the nation. Competitors pay for their own transportation.
The United States Blind Golf Association was founded in 1953 by blind golfer and lawyer Bob Allman. Today, the organization conducts three annual tournaments 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.
"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 said.
For more information about the USBGA National Championship tournament, call (615) 385-0784, send an email inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.USBlindGolf.com.