Blind golfers, coaches compete at Arizona tourney

GREEN VALLEY, AZ - They're more than just caddies, they are the eyes for the blind golfers they help around the course.

It takes just a few minutes on the course to see how valuable the coaches are to the players that were at Torres Blancas Golf Club in Green Valley Monday, for the United States Blind Golf Association Arizona Regional golf tournament.

"Basically we're talking about a team concept," Dick Pomo said. Pomo, who is legally blind, was playing in the tournament with the help of his coach and friend Clark Lambert. "The game of blind golf is played as a team. Clark serves as my eyes, in a sense of being able to figure the distance and direction."

"When we're putting his job is to line up the putt and read the greens, my job is to hit it straight."

Pomo knows that he simply wouldn't be able to play without the help of his coach.

"The player/coach relationship is special, because without them, we couldn't be out here," Pomo said.

The relationship is more than just being there for the two days of the tournament.

"Once a week we go out to hit balls, at Haven or Canoa Ranch, and we've probably played five or six rounds together to get ready," Lambert said.

Lambert was an integral part of every shot Monday, from guiding Pomo to the shot, pacing off distances for chips and putts, and lining up the club head with the ball before every swing.

"On the green, walking from the ball to the cup, you get a sense of feeling the green with your feet, the slope and how far the distance is," Pomo said. "That's where the team comes in."

He is also there to make sure Pomo gets around safely, as on Sunday, when Pomo hit a shot close to the water on the 17th hole.

"I held on to his club to make sure he didn't fall in the water," Lambert said. Keeping him safe unfortunately didn't help on the next shot.

"He kept me from falling in, but I managed to put the next shot in the water anyway," Pomo said.

Pomo also plays with other golfers around town, getting a round or two in a week with others willing to help him get in some golf.

"I'm lucky here in Green Valley, I've got lots of friends to play with," he said.

Diane Wilson and her husband, Byron, made the trip to Green Valley all the way from Fort Ludlow, Wash. for the tournament. She is classified as a B3 player, a blind spot in her left eye qualifying her in to the most sighted category.

"We came down last year and they put on such a great event here, we wanted to be included again," she said.

While she has enough sight to line up the club by herself, the blind spot affects her putting, which is where Byron comes in.

"He doesn't place the club but will line me up on the putts, which is real critical because I can't see the slope," Wilson said.

The player/coach relationship is sometimes affected by the married relationship.

"He'll pick my clubs for me and sometimes we'll have a discussion ... but I usually go with what he recommends," she said. "We are husband and wife, after all."

While she plays regularly with friends, she sees a definite impact when Byron is out with her.

"I play with a group of ladies who help me, but they don't really do any coaching, so I usually add about 20 strokes," Wilson said.

While she regularly plays in tournaments for the blind, heading to Phoenix next week and the national championship in Oregon in August, she would like to see more women in the competitions.

"We need to get more women involved, because there is only about three of us in the U.S. right now," she said. "I know there's got to be more visually impaired or blind women that could play, so that's we're working on this year."

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