Ontario charity brings golf to players with visual impairment

It took less than three days for Lucy Yan to lose the vision in her left eye. Five years later, her right eye vision was gone too.

But on Sunday, Yan stood out on the green field of Beach Fairway Golf Range in Scarborough, at the corner of Danforth Avenue and Victoria Park Avenue. She poised herself on the practice stand and swung her seven iron. The ball went slightly to the right, but her husband and her coach cheered on.

Yan is one of the newest members of Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers (OVIG), a province-wide charity with a growing number of members in Scarborough and the rest of the GTA. OVIG holds regular practices, clinics and tournaments throughout Ontario for golfers with visual impairment.

After a medical examination that classifies players’ eye condition, golfers with visual impairment can play at national and international blind golf events. All golf rules apply to the game, except that players can be accompanied by a sighted person — such as a relative, a friend, or a coach — who sets up the balls and helps with line up. The assistant can also use voice commands to direct the players.

Fred Worsley, event coordinator of OVIG’s Toronto chapter said, however, that having a partner does not make it any easier for OVIG’s members.

“They’ve got a lot of guts,” Worsley said. “As a sighted person, I could remember first starting to learn golf — and it’s scary. Now when you’ve lost your sight or a good part of your sight, it has to be triple that.”

Worsley, now in his 80s, added that the majority of OVIG’s members are in their 50s or older, but the organization continues to seek younger players to start a junior section soon.

“Younger players don’t particularly want to golf with us old guys, but we can help them an awful lot by passing along our experience,” he said.

After hitting a golf ball for the first time during an OVIG golf clinic in May, Yan has become a regular presence on the driving range.

“Golf is not as easy as I thought, but it’s fun,” she said. “Any time I come, I learn something new from all the coaches.”

As many golf courses are set to close for the winter season, OVIG is currently working with Don Montgomery Community Recreation Centre in Scarborough to start indoor golf lessons for visually impaired players and other golf enthusiasts with disabilities.