Starting in the late 1970s, former
Tulane basketball star Pat Browne
Jr. established himself as the Jack
Nicklaus of blind golf. A New Orleans
native who once carried a 1-handi-
cap, Browne lost his sight in a 1966
car accident. But within months his
friends persuaded him to started hitting balls again.
“It took a while, but I just loved
the game,” Browne says. “My goal
was just to get back to playing with
my regular foursome on Saturday
Browne achieved his goal and then
some, winning the USBGA National
Championship 23 times, including
20 in succession with coach Gerry
Barousse from 1978-97. Still an active
competitor at 79, Browne did not
enter the nationals this year but in
June won his 24th Corcoran Cup, a
longtime tournament for totally blind
players at Mount Kisco (N. Y.) CC. His
coach was his son, Pat Browne III, a
31-year-old former mini-tour pro.
Despite a proud history, blind golf
attracts relatively few competitors.
The USBGA has just 57 dues-paying
members, says Meador, who became
the association’s president last year.
Most are older than 50, and just two
are women, including Sheila Drummond, the lone female competitor at
this year’s national championship.
While facing the same golf-participa-tion obstacles as sighted players, blind
golfers must surmount additional hurdles. “The hardest part of this game is
finding a coach,” says Bob Andrews, a
two-time USBGA national champ who
lost his sight to a booby trap in Vietnam. Finding willing playing partners
is another challenge, adds Thompson,
the Kentucky golfer, who credits a
group of Lexington retirees for inviting
him to play regularly.
is not for every blind golfer,
says Baker, the totally blind
Nashville player, who finished
second to Meador at Middle
Bay. “It’s easier for people
to be the blind or visually
impaired person at a charity
event,” the two-time national
champ says. “You hit a few
good shots and everybody
thinks it’s great. But it’s a dif-
ferent ball game when you’re
competing, and you have to
write down every shot and
post a score. A lot of people
aren’t willing to do that.”
The USBGA has taken
steps to attract more
competitors, such as
The writer, with coach Paris Sterrett, got a taste of blind golf’s vast challenges.
Meador, right, getting a hand from Davis, his coach for nearly 15 years. Meador, 64, won his third national title at Middle Bay.
converting the national championship format from stroke play to
modified Stableford scoring this year.
By stipulating that players pick up
once they lie three over par on a hole,
the format speeds play. (At Middle
Bay competitors completed the
final round in 51/2 hours). Hoping to
increasing future participation, the
organization will also oversee clinics for blind and visually impaired
juniors in six states this year.
Although becoming a champion blind golfer has bolstered Meador’s elf-esteem and reputation during an adult life spent in
darkness, the game has rewarded
him in a far greater way.
“I know what a green looks like at
a distance. It’s a beautiful sight,” he
reflects. “I know what a ball looks
like in the air, and I know what it
looks like right in front of me, when
I’m about to hit a full gap wedge
into the green. Those are sights that
I saw as an 8-year-old and as an
18-year-old. … It’s a love affair, really.
It’s a return to sight.”
And that’s a payoff infinitely more
profound than any trophy. N