Visually Impaired Golfer Not Worried About His Handicap

Mark Arnold loves the game of golf, and he’s actually quite good at it.  Arnold suffers from Stargardt’s disease, a form of macular degeneration.  But that hasn’t stopped him in the least.  A couple weekends ago, Arnold competed against 10 Canadian golfers, all of whom were visually impaired as well.  He is the captain of the American team that competes in tournaments together and is the co-founder of American Blind Golf.

Arnold uses a coach when playing in tournaments and on his own.  He and his coach, Arnold Schmock, played golf against each other as far back as 1984.  In 2001, when Arnold began to lose his sight, he asked Schmock to become his coach so that he could begin to play in blind golf tournaments.  Schmock’s answer came back quickly.  “When do we start?” Schmock asked.

When playing, Schmock will lead Arnold to his ball and line up the club face so that it is centered on the ball.  He also lines up his hips so that he’s aiming in the right direction  From there, it’s all Arnold.  As a blind golfer, Arnold’s swing is a little different.  While a sighted golfer will allow some motion in his hips and legs to get a stronger swing, Arnold’s lower body stays rigid so that he can make sure that he stays in line with where Schmock placed him.  Arnold can now tell immediately if he’s hit the ball wrong, as well.  Before Schmock even has the chance to inform him that his shot was a hook or a slice, Arnold already knows by feel alone and usually jokes with Schmock that he gave him the wrong club.  Schmock also guards him from the mental games that golf offers as well.  If there is a bunker or a water hazard in front of him, Schmock won’t say a thing.  He’ll aim him where he needs to hit, tell him the distance, and Arnold will swing.  That way, he won’t be nervous about hitting the water or the beach and will swing better.

Unfortunately for Arnold and his team, the Canadians took home the trophy in this year’s match, saying that if Arnold and his crew want it back, they’ll have to come get it at next year’s tournament when it’s held in Nova Scotia.

There’s no doubt that Arnold will be there.

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