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Blind golfer joins hole-in-one club on 'very tricky' green

When blind golfer Jim Gales stepped out for a quick practice round, he had no idea that membership to one the game's most treasured clubs would soon be his.

The 46-year-old hit the ace on the first hole at the Wellsgreen course, near Windygates in Fife, as he prepared for the Scottish Pan-Disability Open being played this week at Scotscraig Golf Club, Tayport.

Mr Gales, who is chairman of the Scottish Disability Golf Partnership and was awarded the MBE for his services to blind golf, lost his sight to retinitis pigmentosa in 1988. He took up golf in 1995 after he moved to Springfield, near Cupar.

The hole-in-one was on a 65-yard par three and was his first in 15 years of trying.

His tee shot landed just short of the "very tricky" green and ran up before disappearing into the hole, sparking celebrations at the course, as the achievement is much harder for a blind golfer than for a sighted player.

Mr Gales said yesterday: "It was a wonderful feeling when my sighted guide told me it went in.

"I have some light perception, but cannot distinguish any shapes or shadows, and I cannot see anything on the golf course.

"I rely on my sighted guide, Paul Shepherd, to paint a picture of the hole, the yardage and any potential hazards in the way.

"We'd just picked up our clubs, and arrived at the first tee when I got my hole in one.

"At 65 yards it's not the furthest, but the green is like an upturned saucer sloping away from the pin on all sides, and very tricky.

"I took out a pitching wedge and gave the ball a whack.

"Paul told me I'd hit it fairly straight, that it landed five or so yards short of the green, ran up on to the green and then disappeared.

"Then he said 'it's gone in' and everyone fell about laughing.

"There were quite a few people there so, as is the tradition, I had a few drinks to buy in the clubhouse."

He added: "I've been playing golf for years and only once before come close to scoring a hole in one, when my ball hit the rim of the hole and bounced out, in a competition in Canada.

"To finally manage one was fantastic. You don't target getting a hole in one because they are as rare as hens' teeth even for sighted players.

Source: Angus Howarth,
Evening News, Wednesday, 8th September, 2010