IN A MAGNIFICENT team effort the Rest of the World blind and visually impaired golfers retained their equivalent of the Ryder Cup with a comprehensive 14.5 to 9.5 victory over North America at the beautiful Villa d”Este Golf Club in Lombardy, north-west Italy.
Like the Ryder Cup, the tournament runs over three days and is competed for bi-annually. The team is selected from the top four players in each of the International Blind Golfers Association three sight categories from B1, totally blind, to B3 and includes an additional captain’s pick.
Royal Ashdown’s, John Eakin was selected from the B3 category and won two out of his three matches including a convincing 5&4 victory in the singles on the final day and was only pipped at the final hole, losing one down in the first day’s foursomes with his South African partner, having given away 16 shots on a testing, tree-lined and undulating course.
Each player is allowed a sighted guide (Eakin very generously invited your Blogger) who is allowed to stand directly behind the player to advise on alignment, distance, line and pace, whilst the player is also allowed to ground his or her club in a hazard. What is remarkable, and indeed inspiring, is the quality of golf played and the excitement generated throughout the tournament.
Italian Chiara Pozzi, formerly a low single figure handicap player until she went blind, rolled in the putt on the par three 16th to win 3&2 on the final day that secured the fifth point necessary to hand the Rest of the World team victory amidst huge applause from her family, friends, team-mates and their guides gathered around the green.
And, just like the Ryder Cup, the celebrations that followed were every bit as intense and emotional for Team Rest of the World, with each and every one of the players having contributed at least half a point to their side’s triumph.