You Don't Have to See It to Tee It
From lush fairways to manicured greens, there is much for the eye to enjoy on the golf course. But for world champion blind golfer Bill Davis, his love for the game isn’t defined by what he sees.
15 years ago, Davis’ retinas began detaching from his eyes, leaving him legally blind with 20/600 vision.
“Usually everything is blurred, a little distorted,” Davis said. “For example, you’re about six feet away from me. I can’t see your face. I can see the silhouette of yourself.”
With a little coaching from PGA instructor Michael Marcum, Davis shot a 76 at a course in London to win the world championships for his sight division.
“He’s a fine player,” Marcum said. “He’s better than a lot of my sighted students because [blind players’] senses are so much highly tuned when they don’t have sight—their feel, their sense of sound and their balance is just incredible.”
Davis has also won three national championships, competing in tournaments organized by the United States Blind Golf Association, whose motto is “You don’t have to see it to tee it.”
However, golf hasn’t always been Davis’s game. Even as his vision was worsening, he qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials in the decathlon and completed the Iron Man Triathlon five years ago in Korea.
Now focused on golf, Davis teaches other blind people the game he loves through clinics across Southern California.
“He’s a very good teacher, Bill is,” said Gilbert Baker, who participated in one of Davis’ clinics for blind golfers. “Chipping is my worst. You hit it too hard and it goes far and you hit it too short, it goes short. I’ve got to learn how to chip better.”
Davis says he has some advantages over sighted players. For one, he can ignore the hazards that often intimidate other players.
“I always tell my guide: Do not tell me about the lake, don’t tell me about sand traps,” Davis said. “Just give me the distance and the angle.”
Caddies are especially important in blind golf. They stand either in front of or behind the player to guide them toward the hole.
“By having the person behind me, they can absolutely make sure that I am in line with my target,” Davis said.”
Davis has chosen to block out the bad and see the good, in golf and in life.