Feature Writer John Christie – The History of the United States Blind Golfers Association

Blind Golf was started by a man named Clint Russell. He lost his sight in 1924 when a tire exploded in his face. He then started playing golf in 1925. A few years later, the Duluth, Minnesota native was shooting an 84 for 18 holes–a very impressive round for any golfer.

In 1932, a magazine called Robert Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” ran a story about Clint being the only blind golfer. Six years later, the magazine said that a blind golfer in England named Dr. Beach Oxenham was the only blind golfer. Clint’s friends got the magazine to sponsor a tournament between the two golfers in 1938 at the Ridgeview Country Club in Duluth. In the tournament, Russell defeated Oxenham, 5 and 4.

Due to the exposure from the magazine article and the tournament, Russell heard from other golfers who had lost their eyesight and eventually a second tournament was held between Clint Russell and a man from Fort Worth, Texas named Marvin Shannon. There were supposed to be three matches played, but only two occurred because of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Toward the close of the war, Clint spoke with many people in the Veterans Administration and he truly thought that golf could be a form of therapy for them. The Veterans Administration agreed and they still offer golf as therapy for any totally blind veteran or for one who is visually impaired.

As the popularity of blind golf grew and more people joined the organization, Bob Allman,a blind lawyer and golfer, formed the United States Blind Golfers Association in 1953 and served as its first president.

Today there are several regional USBGA tournaments. They also have a tournament which raises money for Guiding Eyes. This particular fundraiser has been taken place since 1978 and has raised over $10 million since its inception.

The United States Blind Golfers Association is a great organization and serves as yet another good example that blind people can not only be independent and self-sufficient, but can adapt games largely based on sight to fit their need. In addition, they show their independence by traveling long distances to participate in tournaments. That’s what life is all about.

For more information on the United States Blind Golfers Association, go to http://www.blindgolf.com.

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