Nepali Times
Tee Break
What handicap?


First, let me wish all of you a happy 2006. By now, many non-golfers have made New Year's resolutions to take up this wonderful game and many veterans have vowed to cut their handicaps. I hope to see all the enthusiastic followers of this column at the practice range in coming days.

Talking about enthusiasm, and determination, a couple of days back I was surfing the website of the PGA tour when I saw that a blind golfer was making headlines! Even people with great eyesight sometimes have trouble just making contact with a golf ball so when I read that this blind player had recently made a hole in one, I was astonished.

On the other hand, of course there are many handicapped people in this world who have great will and determination to succeed. You would certainly need that extra bit of willpower to be blind and play golf well. Apparently more than 1,000 blind people worldwide play golf, about 100 of them competitively.

Zohar Sharon of Caeserea Golf Club in Caeserea, Israel is the leading blind golfer. On 14 November, he made headlines with a hole-in-one on the 15th hole at Caeserea, the only 18-hole course in Israel. It was the latest in a string of achievements for the 53-year-old Sharon, who became blind while serving in the army more than 25 years ago.

Since 2003, he's won international blind golfers' tournaments in Scotland, Australia, the United States and Canada, where he sank his first eagle at the Ontario Visually Impaired Golfer's Championship in August. He's beaten a slew of sighted golfers, too.

Sharon may have lost his eyesight but not his sense of humour. He described himself as "the world's greatest golf player at night". "I want every seeing person to have their legs shake with fear a little when they come play a round with me," he added. Then Sharon turned serious. Golf kept him alive, he said, rescuing him from severe depression.

He was a sniper in a paratrooper unit when a fellow soldier accidentally sprayed a chemical in his face that made him blind at the age of 28. Sharon's coach, Ricardo Cordoba-Core, a sports psychologist from Bolivia, trained him from scratch, focusing on coordination and teaching him to visualise each shot. It was months before he even let Sharon hold a club. "In golf there are no restrictions for blind people," Sharon said before adding, "if you have a good caddie." His good caddie is Shimshon Levi, who gently guides the golfer around the course, plants his tees and places the balls. He steadies Sharon's arms and describes what's ahead. When his friend is putting, he places his hand on the club so it is just next to the ball, tells him the distance and then runs to the hole and begins clapping so Sharon will know where to aim.

Hats off to this strong-willed human being. The New Years Cup tournament is back on Saturday, 21 January at Gokarna Golf Club. Don't forget to sign in to win a golfing holiday to Malaysia. For further details: 4451212, 4450444.

Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Golf Director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)