FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Golfers from around the country are coming to Pebble Lake Golf Course for the U.S. Blind Golf Association Midwest Regional Tournament thanks to an Otter Tail County man who started playing the game late in life.
If there is one part of his job at Pebble Lake Golf Club pro Kevin Swenson loves, it's assisting blind golfers like 65-year-old Curt Jones.
Jones lost his vision at the age of three from retinoblastoma. Despite his vision loss, Jones hunts, plays drums in a band and recently picked up golf as a member of the USBGA.
That is part of the USBGA, they want to introduce golf to all ages. Kids and adults who have lost their vision. To let them know they have a life after losing vision. You can go out and do something and not just sit on the couch.
One of the obstacles for blind golfers is a lack of balance. People with vision use their eyes for balance. That is where the sighted assistant comes in.
"A non-sighted golfer, we work on tempo, because if they swing too hard, they don't have the depth perception to keep things in perspective. So we have shorter swings. Half to three quarter swing," Swenson explained.
Putting for the blind is unique. After announcing the distance to the cup, the assistant uses the flag to make noise and help Jones hit in the right direction.
"As you get older, it's like, 'what sport you play? Well, I can't play hockey, so I play golf," Jones said.
"Curt has brought the enthusiasm right from the start," Swenson said. "Bringing this tournament has jump started our membership. Everybody wants to help and volunteer - It's very cool."
Practice round for the Midwest Regional Blind Golf Tournament is this Sunday night, July 18, at Pebble Lake Golf Course in Fergus Falls. Tournament play is Monday and Tuesday. More information about the tournament can be found on their website.