Following is a brief history of blind golf in the United States. You
can read more about the United States Blind Golf Association by visiting
their website at www.blindgolf.com.
In 1924, Clint Russell of Duluth, Minnesota lost his sight when a tire
exploded in his face. In 1925, he began playing blind golf. Clint slowly
reduced his scores and by early 1930 had shot an 84 for 18 holes.
In 1932, Robert Ripley's Believe It or Not carried an article on Clint as
the world's only blind golfer. But six years later Ripley did a similar
story, this time saying that Dr. Beach Oxenham of London, England was the
"World's only blind golfer." Noting the discrepancy, several of Clint's
friends challenged Ripley to sponsor the world's first blind golfer's
championship. Ripley accepted. Then, on August 20, 1938, at the Ridgeview
Country Club in Duluth, Minnesota, Mr. Russell defeated Dr. Oxenham, 5 and
Because of the publicity, Clint Russell received communications from
others who had lost their sight. In 1941, the second tournament was held
between Clint and Marvin Shannon of Fort Worth, Texas. It was staged as
three separate matches. Clint won the first. His opponent won the second.
Unfortunately, Pearl Harbor prevented the third match.
Toward the close of World War II, Clint contacted several people in the
Veterans Administration and suggested golf as therapy for those who had
lost their sight. The Veterans Administration agreed. They have continued
to offer golf as therapy to this day.
In 1946, a national blind golfers championship was played in Inglewood,
California, this time with more than two golfers. Again, Clint Russell
won. Coming in second was Charley Boswell, who had been blinded while
trying to pull a buddy out of a burning tank during WWII.
As the number of blind golfers grew, Bob Allman, a blind golfer and
lawyer, formed the United States Blind Golfers
Association (USBGA) in 1953. Allman served as
its first president followed by Joe Lazaro and Charley Boswell, who guided
the USBGA from 1956 through 1976. Pat Browne served as president from 1976
until 1992. Bob Andrews held the position from 1992 thru 2002. Jim Baker
was in office from 2002 thru 2006. Phil Blackwell took over in 2006.
Three golfers have dominated the championships. Pat Browne has taken first
place 23 times, (an amazing 20 wins were consecutive), Charley Boswell 16
times, and Joe Lazaro 7 times. In 1998, Keith Melick won, ending Pat
Brownes 20-year winning streak. Pat holds the record for the lowest round
ever shot in USBGA competition, a 74 at the Mission Hills Country Club.
Today there are several sanctioned regional blind golf tournaments. Until
1990 the USBGA National Championship was hosted at a different site around
the country each year. From 1990 through 1997 the National Championship
was played at the Lake Buena Vista Club, Disney World, Florida. The
championship is now partnered with The Lions Clubs International and moves
from state to state. The invitational Ken Venturi Guiding Eyes Classic,
the "Masters" of blind golf, in Mount Kisco, New York, has been in
existence since 1978. The Stewart Cup Match Play began in 1991 to mirror
the Ryder Cup and was played until 1995. It was played every two years in
alternate locations between the United States and England.
In 1998 the International Blind Golf Association was organized and the
USBGA was one of the founding members. The IBGA hosts a world championship
biennially in one of the 9 member countries. In 2006 the USBGA amended the
association By-Laws to include B2 and B3 vision impaired associate members
as full members with voting privileges. The newly expanded board of seven
will include three vision impaired and three totally blind members, plus
the president, who must be a totally blind member. The vice president is
chosen by the board of directors.