Imagine walking out to the first tee on a beautiful spring day. You can smell the freshly cut grass, hear the symphony of birds chirping, and feel a calm breeze on your face. There’s nothing like spending your day in the outdoors and enjoying this great game with friends. Now imagine all of these wonderful feelings that come with golf, but with one thing absent – your sight. It may sound a bit startling at first, but when you get to experience this first hand through the youth of our community, something amazing happens. The junior program with the Mid-Atlantic Blind Golf Association brings together blind and visually impaired youth from the tristate area with the common goal to learn and enjoy the game of golf.
The program has grown over the past several years and is now accommodating over 40 visually impaired kids from our area. Each child gets to enjoy three unique phases of the program. First, when the child’s family shows interest, the coordinators of the program, Norman Kritz and Mike Molloy, will try to match the child with a local teaching professional to work one on one. The teaching professionals volunteer their time and energy throughout the year at no cost. It’s in these lessons that the child will start to understand the fundamentals of the game. Second, the program will host two large outings at the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia. It’s a fun-filled day where a nine-hole chip and putt course will be freshly cut throughout the grounds. Each child will be accompanied by a volunteer coach who will work with the child on each and every stroke.
As a volunteer coach, you take your child through the stages of a golf swing: the stance, swing motion, and grip. The coach will line up the child’s face of the club with the ball. And in many cases, kneeling down and taking the club face to tap the ball a few times, signaling to your golfer the location of the ball by sound. It really is a fantastic experience. You can’t help but admire the resiliency of these kids. You soak in the pure joy that emanates from their bodies after a well-connected shot. They jump up and down as they hear the clanking of a ball dropping into the cup. Their faces light up when the volunteers around them congratulate them on a well struck drive. Lastly, there are a dozen other smaller scaled clinics that are scheduled from the spring to fall. The First Tee of Philadelphia and several local public and private courses will welcome these golfers throughout the year. Some local schools have had students volunteer as well, such as Saint Joseph’s University and Episcopal Academy’s Golf Team. Also, each child is provided with clubs, a bag, and golf balls free of charge.
The tag line of the Mid Atlantic Blind Golf association is ‘turning obstacles into opportunities’. These kids refuse to let their vision limitations be an obstacle every day of their lives. And when you experience what this program does for the visually impaired and blind youth of our community, it is truly amazing. The program would not be possible without the dedication and energy of the many volunteer coaches, parents, teaching professionals, and program coordinators. Even in retirement, Norman Kritz is still very passionate about his work with Junior Blind Golf, and you can always count on being greeted with an ear to ear smile from Norman. The program would love to get the word out and expand to other visually impaired and blind youth. If you are thinking of other ways to help, the program is consistently looking for support and volunteers. Old golf clubs, bags, monetary donations are always welcomed. The Mid-Atlantic Blind Golf Association is an awesome opportunity to celebrate the resiliency of these fantastic children.
For more information please visit: http://www.mabga.org/junior-golf.htm