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Finding the right focus | For the Love of the Game
It is perhaps the most pervasive phrase in sports: Keep your eye on the ball.
Whether hitting a baseball, catching a football or taking a swing on the tennis court, maintaining a laser-like focus on the ball is transferable through most all sports (dribbling a basketball being the notable exception) and most often, one of the most critical fundamentals.
That is especially true on the golf course, but don't tell Pat Beecher.
For the past four years Beecher, an Everett resident and Army veteran, has been losing his sight. A combination of ocular conditions distort his perspective and choke his depth perception, but neither has been able to dissuade his spirit.
Thanks, at least in part, to golf.
Beecher is by no means a seasoned pro; he only took up the game six months ago at the urging of his cohorts during a stay at the VA hospital in Tacoma. Many of them - despite injuries and conditions typical among those who have served our country in the armed forces - found the golf course a natural setting to unload stress, find camaraderie and perhaps most importantly, regain the active lifestyle that defined them pre-injury.
For Beecher, the opportunity to learn a new game couldn't have come at a better time.
"I would sit in front my computer playing solitaire and that was it," he said. "Once they taught me how to golf, I got out and started meeting people. It made me come alive."
The trips to a driving range near his home fostered his enjoyment of the game and its many challenges, which are of course multiplied by his eyesight. But other than a few special tees that help him feel the depth he is teeing the ball at and a viewfinder to clear his view downrange (only slightly), there is nothing out of the ordinary about Beecher's game.
He was one of several individuals with disabilities who had a chance to put it on display in a golf tournament and fundraiser hosted by Bellevue-based non-profit Elder and Adult Day Services (EADS).
"We wanted to do something that raises money and creates an opportunity for people with disabilities that they wouldn't normally have," said Jeff Bradt, CEO of EADS. "For many, this was their first opportunity to play in a real golf tournament alongside other people."
For Beecher, it was more of a reminder of all that is still possible.
He plans to continue making trips to the driving range and course whenever a friend or family member can take him. And even as he continues to manage his increasing blindness, he won't have any trouble knowing where to focus.
"I still have my grand-kids, there is plenty to do," he said. "Just because you don't have 20/20 vision, life still goes on."
The only part of the game Beecher needs help with is finding his ball down course, which is hardly unique among those with or without disabilities. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER.
Beecher measures a tee shot during the tournament. His foursome, playing in a scramble format, found Beecher's ball to be the best off the tee on more than on occasion. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER.
Pat Beecher uses a small viewfinder to magnify a small portion of the course, such as the green near the flag. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER.
For the Love of the Game is a sports column by reporter Josh Suman. 425-453-5045 and firstname.lastname@example.org.