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A Brief History of Blind Golf

 

Anyone who has tried golfing knows it’s a difficult game to play well. Imagine a blind person trying to master the game.

Clint Russell was the first known American to take on the challenge of learning how to play blind golf. A businessman from Duluth, Minnesota, Russell lost his sight in an explosion in 1924 and decided to relearn his favorite pastime as a blind man. In doing so Russell pioneered golf for the sightless, becoming one of the best blind golfers in the world and encouraging others to play. In 1953, the growing community of blind golfers inspired by Russell’s example formed the United States Blind Golf Association. The USBGA has organized blind golf tournaments across the country ever since.

USBGA golfers play by the USGA rules, with only a few modifications. Blind golfers are allowed to have a coach that may assist in addressing the ball, club selection, and aligning prior to the stroke. They may also ground their clubs in hazards. The USBGA works hard to support its blind and visually impaired members and to increase public awareness of blind golf in the United States. The organization maintains the adage that anything is possible. As they say, “You don’t have to see it to tee it.”

Since 1978, the Guiding Eyes Golf Classic, held annually in Mount Kisco, New York, has invited the top blind golfers in the world to compete in what has become known as the “Masters” of Blind Golf. In 2018 Guiding Eyes named their blind golf tournament The Pat W. Browne, Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament, in memory and honor of the most successful blind golfer of all time, Pat W. Browne, Jr. (1933 – 2017). A promising attorney and scratch golfer from an early age, Browne lost his sight in a car accident in 1966. Never one to lose hope, he quickly discovered – and conquered – blind golf, and went on to become a legend in the sport. During his blind golf career, Browne amassed 70 worldwide victories, including 23 national championships. He was elected to the USBGA Hall of Fame, the Tulane University Athletic Association, the Sugar Bowl Athletic Hall of Fame, and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. In 2017, the USBGA, where Browne served as president for nearly 20 years, named their national trophy after him. Guiding Eyes is proud to honor and support the game of blind golf and we congratulate all Pat W.
Browne, Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament qualifiers.

 

The Pat W. Browne, Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament Format


Traditionally during the annual Guiding Eyes Golf Classic, the Pat W. Browne, Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament has been a separate event on Sunday, with winners recognized at our Monday Awards dinner. For our 2021 Virtual Golf Classic, the format is as follows:

​1. Because the Blind and Visually Impaired players need to arrange play with a coach, they have from May 15 to June 10 to submit scores to a designated person who will determine the points for each player.

2. While this is not a sanctioned tournament, the USBGA wants to pay respect to the memory of Pat Browne Jr. and will present medallions to the players for the following achievements:
  • Corcoran Cup to the B1 player with the most points
  • Cribari Trophy to the B1 player with the second most points
  • McFarland Trophy to the B1 player with the highest net points
  • First and second place awards will also be given to the Vision Impaired B2 and B3 players
NB: Since the Spoonster Trophy is for the most improved player, USBGA decided not to give the award this year, as it is impossible to determine.
 
3. Stableford scoring a player receives points based on his/her NET score for each hole:
  • 0 points for a Net double bogey or worse
  • 1 point for a Net bogey
  • 2 points for a Net par
  • 3 points for a Net birdie
  • 4 points for a Net eagle
  • 5 points for a Net double eagle; etc.

Sight Categories for Playing Blind Golf


These sight categories are accepted and recognized by the International Blind Golf Association (IBGA) and the United States Blind Golf Association (USBGA). Your sight category is determined and approved by the IBGA after completing the Eye Sight Classification form on the Membership page.
 

Totally Blind Division (B-1 Category):

No light perception, or light perception which is not functional, central, or peripheral, with or without light projection, up to the inability to differentiate between a blank sheet of white paper and a sheet of white paper with a black symbol on it. (The black symbol is displayed on the IBGA/USBGA Sight Form and is used as part of the exam.)
 

Vision Impaired Divisions (B-2 & B-3 Categories):

B-2: From the ability to recognize the shape of a hand up to visual acuity of 20/600.
B-3: From the visual acuity above 20/600 up to visual acuity of less than 20/200.

All classifications are in best eye with best correction.