“Prior to arriving at the course we anticipated playing at most 2 or 3 holes. I stepped up to the first tee because they gave me the honor to tee off first. You should know that with my glasses I have 20/20 vision.” My dad hadn’t played in a couple of weeks and he knew he would be nervous. He approached the first tee with his driving iron. A smooth easy shot was what he thought he’d hit. His first swing was a whiff. His second swing was strike 2, another whiff. After the second swing my father heard some murmuring from Zohar’s cart, but they were speaking Hebrew so the translation was unknown. Then, my father heard Zohar say: “take it easy-don’t be afraid. Just swing”. My father topped the ball on his third swing-it trickled 50 yards-and barely made it to the forward tee.
Zohar was then escorted by his caddy to the tee box and he cranked a 240-yard shot right down the middle. Zohar is a blind veteran of the IDF-(Israeli Defense Force) and was introduced to golf after he lost his sight in a chemical accident. In addition to losing his sight Zohar faced other serious injuries and after undergoing months of strenuous rehab he tumbled into a deep depression. Zohar was offered an opportunity to try golf as a possible add on to his therapy and (never having seen a golf course when he had sight), he decided to give it a try..
What happened was love at first swing. Now twelve years later he is the four time defending world champion of the International Blind Golfers Association. He plays to a 14 handicap and will be defending his championship this coming Spring in Australia. Golf has taken Zohar all over the world and he has a real passion for the sport. On a typical day Zohar will play and practice for seven hours. There’s obviously much more to the story than just Zohar.
Zohar has Shimshon Levi (his own personal “Bagger Vance”) on his bag. Regardless of the outcome of the shot, Zohar’s Mr. Levi expresses nothing but positive feedback. But, after thousands of hours on the course hitting balls, Zohar knows when his shots don’t come off as planned-he “can feel it”. Oh by the way Zoharhad a par on the first hole and had six pars for the round. On the twelfth hole, Zohar’s caddie asked my father if he wanted to experience what Zohar experiences and he handed my father sunglasses-painted pitch black, put a club in his hand and pulled him over to a spot where he said the ball was lying. Once again my father stepped up to the ball, took a smooth backswing and gracefully swung and missed, again and again and again.
I’ll end my blog post with this: in this season of giving and resolutions, my father came away from the course with a deep and abiding respect for this world champion and his caddie.