Visually Impaired Golfers Inspire Others

Visually Impaired Golfers Inspire Others

Posted on Aug.26, 2009, by , under Inspirational Stories


Irv Fine may have lost one of his senses, but it wasn’t his sense of humor. Fine, who is blind, and a group of friends who are visually impaired play a round of golf at the Mill Creek MetroParks Par 3 Golf Course every week.

“I’ve been golfing for 10 years now, and I’ve gotten progressively worse,” he said.

Fine, 87, is the only one in the group who is completely blind. The others have poor vision and other eye ailments. Others in the group are Dante Giancola, 86; Sid Harris, 83; Pete Smith, 76; and Joe Skebo, 78, all of Youngstown. Fine said the group started about 10 years ago when some of the men, who are all veterans, were attending a support group for the blind.

“We had a social worker who was in charge of the support group, and he was a golfer,” he said. “One day he asked if anyone wanted to come out, and a couple of us said we would go, and that’s how it started.”

Some of the men had golfed before, but others started playing only because of the group.

“I never golfed because I umpired baseball from college ball on down for 40 years,” said Harris. “I was busy with baseball, so I never golfed and I never thought I would like it. And then I started golfing when I started to lose my sight.”

The group is followed by a group of volunteers who act as coaches. Though it sometimes takes the golfers a little longer to set up their shots, they have a good time. After slicing the ball a few feet to the right, Fine said, “The sun was in my eyes.” He added jokingly that the pressure of the cameras was too much for him. The group has fun with the outing and doesn’t let their vision restrictions limit their game.

“I like the sound of the clubs hitting the ball. Since I can’t see where it goes, I don’t care where it goes, just as long as it sounds good.”

Harris said the golf experience is almost like therapy for him.

“It’s quiet,” he said. “There’s no telephones, no disruptions. You have to concentrate. Having not played golf before when I could see, it’s a little different today. But it’s a lot of fun, and I really enjoy it.”

Harris, Smith and Skebo will attend an annual golf outing in Iowa next month with about 200 other visually impaired golfers. Harris said the atmosphere is relaxed and offers a chance for the golfers to make friends with others who share their conditions.

Linda Kostka, a spokeswoman for the MetroParks, was present for a recent round and was amazed at the group’s abilities.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “It speaks a lot to the guys. It’s just amazing that they can do what they do. I golf, so I know how hard it is. It really is inspiring.”

After Giancola hit a drive straight up the fairway, Smith looked at him and called him a show-off. Giancola provides the comic relief for the group. When asked which ball was his, he responded: “the round one.”

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