A unique opportunity presented itself at this week’s innovative ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women, presented by Modest! Golf where representatives from Irish Blind Golf were tasked with a Beat the Pro challenge during the live action.
The ethos of Tournament Sponsor ISPS Handa is the Power of Sport and the ability to break down barriers and provide opportunity for all. Never was this more apparent than at the par-3 seventh at Galgorm Castle during yesterday’s first round when three amateurs took their chances at beating the professionals.
The signature hole at the Ballymena venue drew plenty of attention and first to take on the challenge was Patrick Morgan Junior from Irish Blind Golf. Aided by his guide, the 24-handicapper got lined up and hit a wonderful shot from 140-yards and made it onto the green. Unfortunately, Patrick was up against stiff opposition and just missed out on his chance of winning the adidas clothing hamper and complimentary Galgorm Castle Golf Club membership.
Erin Cooper won the competition for her chance to compete in the Beat the Pro initiative and the Ballymena native gave it a fine effort, only for her tee shot to miss the green on the right.
The stage was set for Irish Blind Golf’s larger than life character Ed Maguire to take his chances. Ed is a seasoned campaigner and he was ready for the challenge.
“I had a wonderful guide in Michelle Hughes,” said Maguire, who plays his golf at Knightsbrook in County Meath. “Michelle knows I fade the ball, so she said, ‘I’m setting you up 15 yards left of the water to come back to the green’. She said ‘Ed, you can go now’ so I swung and the ball made it onto the green.”
“I was so pleased. I’m also delighted for Patrick Junior, he’s such a wonderful young man who has had to deal with a lot in his life. It was great that we both managed to hit the green. We’ll count that as 2-0 for Ireland,” enthused Maguire.
Maguire has been actively involved with Irish Blind Golf for years, a voluntary organisation for blind and visually impaired people who wish to learn or continue to play golf.
Maguire’s life changed after an accident left him in intensive care for 21 days. He lost one eye and the other is “half gone” he says. The former headmaster and journalist with The Irish Times talked openly about battling depression.
“I was devastated, my life was gone, my career was finished,” he said.
He had a chance encounter with blind golfers in America but refused to engage. At the time he insisted he was visually impaired not blind. “I didn’t like the title blind golf,” he said.
“It took me three years but eventually I joined Irish Blind Golf and I can tell you it was simply transformational. I changed back into the happy person I hadn’t been for a very long time.
“This is what golf does for a person. Even when you’re not playing well, when you have a bad hole, there is always the next hole.”
Maguire was thrilled he and his wife Jean got to meet Dr Handa in Japan several years ago and is grateful for the support ISPS Handa give to all sport and especially blind golf.
He also welcomed the opportunity to tee it up with the professionals at this week’s ISPS Handa World Invitational and get so close to the live tournament action.
“It has been such a wonderful experience. The opportunity we got today through ISPS Handa to play a small part in the actual tournament gave a whole new dimension to the word fun. It was a simply wonderful experience.”