"Good shot!" I heard my fellow flight members shouted excitedly the moment I hit the ball with my metal wood driver during the tee off at Hole 1. Yes, the first blind golf event in Malaysia was officially launched on Thursday, 15th October 2009. A total of 32 golfers (16 blind, 16 sighted) from Hong Kong, Australia and Malaysia participated in the afternoon's inaugral launch of the 9 hole golf game. The sound of my titanium driver clubface striking the golf ball echoed the 'sweetest music' to my ears. A moment that I shall cherish for a long time to come. A sport that I thought I will never ever play again after losing my sight in January 2008.
The customary pre-tee off flight members photography session at Hole 1 would certainly be treasured by the four of us. The same will go for the rest of the participants at their respective tee off holes, simultaneously teeing off in the shotgun tee off format. At Hole 1, the four of us standing tall and proud, perhaps too, putting up the broadest smiles, the widest grin, ever, whilst the cameras were clicking away. Kim Mok - Captain of the Hong Kong Blind golf team, Ron Anderson - West Australian blind golfer/blind golf coach, Charles Chan - President of Happy Valley Lions Club, Hong Kong and humble me, the blind golfer, Malaysia, made up the members of flight no. 1 teeing off at Hole 1. 3 blind and 1 sighted playing a round of golf together. Nothing could beat this, I dare say! As for the other 8 flights playing, each flight had 2 blind and 2 sighted players. All the blind golfers had a personal volunteer/coach to guide.
The blind golf event started off with a special morning golf clinic session at the golf driving range. Golf ethiquettes, safety, correct techniques in swinging and hitting the golf balls, putting skills were patiently coached by the Hong Kong golf coach to all. Ron was at hand to offer a few tips as well. After the 'talk and talk' coaching and instructions, all the blind golfers and their respective assigned volunteer/coaches had the free practise at the golf driving range. Full focus and full concentration were the order of the next few hours at the golf driving range.
The Putting competition held was of intense rivalry among the sighted and the blind. Each individual golfer was allowed 3 putting tries to hole the ball from a distance of 4 metres. For the sighted, they were blindfolded and thus, all were tested on the same level playing field, so to speak. Needless to say, you could guess who the winners would turned out to be.
The 'ambrose' format of play was adopted for the afternoon game. This format of play was to ensure all enjoyed the game as each flight would be playing as a team with the best ball played as the the final ball position for all to play their next shots. This would also speed up the game and leaving no excuse for others to say that blind golfers are slow and holding back the game for others following behind.
To make the friendly golf game more interesting for all, novelty prizes were given for the Longest Drive in the 3 categories, sighted, blind B1 and low vision B2/B3, Nearest to the Pin for the same 3 categories and finally the Best Mixed Team championship. Every participant had a fair chance in the competition. All completed the 9 hole game within the targetted time frame of 3 hours and from their voices and excitement, I knew all were exhausted but extremely happy as the topic of conversation heard over the next hours or so were on their golf experiences, the misses in putting, the one good shot of their game, etc. Again, everyone had an enjoyable evening at the events function room with lots of delicious food, buffet serving style. The highlight of the day, of course, was the giving away of prizes to the winners. I would say, all were winners, irrespective of whether one did or did not win any medal but one had taken the bold challenge to take the big step forward in experiencing golfing. Kudos! to our Malaysian first timer golfers.
This golf game has certainly achieved the objective set. It has created public awareness that the blind could play and enjoy the game, that the blind could play alongside sighted golfer friends, walk shoulder to shoulder and interact together. More importantly, help to boost, enhance and empower the independence and confidence for the blind community.
Certainly, a day to be remembered by all, particularly to the Malaysian blind friends.. Dreams turning into reality, many things in life is possible as long as we keep up the positive outlook and the positive vibes in us. How about another round of golf, sighted and blind friends??
More challenging times ahead!