A legally blind golfer hasn’t let his lack of sight keep him from making two holes-in-one at a DeBary golf course.
Phil Hubbard did not start playing golf until he was 19 years old, after he became visually impaired. He is a member at Glen Abbey Golf Club in DeBary.
Despite his lack of vision, he made both holes-in-one at hole 12 on the course, which has a water hazard, tall bushes, and bunkers.
He recalled his first hole-in-one at the course, about two years ago.
“It wasn’t the best day of golf I was having. When we hit it, we could not see it. That was the first problem,” Hubbard said. “The way the hole was set up, there’s tall grass around it, so you can’t really see where we tee off.”
Hubbard explained that, in his vision, the tall grass just appears as a vast darkness blocking the hole.
“When we got up there, me and the other three people I was playing with, we just kept looking, and we finally decided I would just play a different ball,” Hubbard said. “One of the ladies I was playing with putted her ball in. I reached down to pick up her ball, and I picked up my original ball out of the cup.”
“He called me crying after it happened,” his wife, Patty, added.
Almost two years later, Hubbard had the same experience with the same hole.
Wayne Enders, a golf professional at Glen Abbey, explained just how difficult hole 12 is.
“One day, I said, ‘Let me try that.’ Here I am, sighted — I line myself up, and then I close my eyes and try to hit, and it is so difficult, you can’t imagine,” Enders said. “You would never know I’m a golf professional if you watched me try to hit with my eyes closed.”
“The skill and the trust that he has to have is far beyond the average person,” he added, regarding Hubbard.
Hubbard told Enders a few weeks ago that he came very close to his third hole-in-one.
“It left a divot mark about a foot to the left of the pin [the flag marking the hole],” Hubbard said. “Unfortunately, it breaks away from the pin, so it just rolled right past the pin.”
Hubbard explained the importance of blind golf being a two-person sport.
“Everyone looks at golf as an individual sport. For blind golf, it’s not. Blind golf is a two-man sport,” Hubbard said. “I can hit the golf ball, but I can’t tell you where it went. I can usually tell you left or right, how I feel it off the face of the club, but the coach is there to line us up, drive us around, find the ball … their work is harder than mine.”
A blind golfer follows all the rules in the United States Golf Association and The R&A. The only exceptions to a blind golfer’s game is that the coach is allowed to handle the club, and the golfer is allowed to ground his or her club in the hazard — to remove small, loose impediments there or test the ground conditions.
In 2004, Hubbard played his first tournament with the United States Blind Golf Association in Raleigh, North Carolina, and he has continued to play in tournaments with the group all around the world. Hubbard has served on the USBGA board of directors for the past 10 years and is currently the USBGA Handicaps chairman.
“Our main focus is to let people with visual disabilities know that you can still go do things,” Hubbard said. “You can play golf, but even if you don’t play golf, you can find something else to do.”
There will be a blind golf tournament at Glen Abbey Golf Club, 391 N. Pine Meadow Drive in DeBary, next February.
“I’m doing two fundraisers here on the course. One is still scheduled for April 18. They are letting me do 24 hours of golf to raise money for the USBGA and for the tournament,” Hubbard said. “In October, we are going to have a scramble here, and I’m gonna have several blind players from the state of Florida come here and play.”
For more information, or to donate to the fundraiser, visit Phil Hubbard’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pwhubbard) or visit www.usblindgolf.com. People are welcome to come out to the April 18 event to watch Hubbard and donate, or they can donate via a GoFundMe at www.bit.ly/2X0Ipgo.
Hubbard continues to set new goals for himself as a visually impaired golfer.
“The third hole-in-one is always the goal. I’ve been working this year to reduce my handicap,” Hubbard said. “I’ve got it down seven shots so far, and I’ve got 11 more to go. My goal is 18 shots this year.”
Hubbard and his wife also have the goal of playing golf in all 50 states. So far, they’ve played in 27 states.