Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Facing champion to show what we take for granted

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I hate to brag, but this is going to be a showdown for the ages.

This morning, while you are enjoying a second cup of coffee or staring mindlessly at the walls of your office cubicle, I will be going head-to-head with a champion.

To be precise, after rolling out of bed, I am going to drive over to Tuxedo Golf Course, which is roughly a four-minute walk from my house, and tee off against a gentleman named Victor Goetz.

If you are not familiar with Victor's name, allow me to give you a little sports history. Along with being a Manitoba champion on the links, my opponent is also ranked No. 2 in Western Canada and No. 7 in the entire country.

What with being a champion golfer, Victor has a slight advantage over me in the skill department. That's why this morning, along with my new golf shoes and my prized British Open golf cap, I will also unleash my secret weapon -- special eyeglasses that simulate a variety of visual impairments, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy.

I'm thinking these glasses will help even the score, considering my 62-year-old opponent is legally blind.

Victor was born with five per cent vision in both eyes. "I've been to many eye doctors and none of them have been able to put a finger on what the exact problem is," Victor explained on the phone the other day.

The important thing is, I have an excellent journalistic reason for challenging Victor on the golf course -- an editor is making me do it. Some local golf fanatic told our deputy editor Julie Carl Victor will be playing in the national and world blind golf championships in Truro, N.S., next month and suggested it would be a brilliant idea for me to strap on a blindfold and play against him to help publicize his search for sponsors to cover some of the expenses.

(If you're interested, Victor can be reached at 667-6808. But he'll be kind of busy this morning.)

With my competitive juices flowing, I called Victor up the other day and threw down the golfing gauntlet. I politely pointed out I would be at a slight disadvantage, because, technically, I am to golf what the Toronto Maple Leafs are to pro hockey, if you catch my subtle sporting drift.

A gentleman as well as an outstanding athlete, the former Paralympian was quick to offer a suggestion for levelling the playing field. "We'll tee off at midnight. How about that?" he said, quickly adding "ha ha ha" to let me know he was trying to be diplomatic.

So, as I said, it is going to be a battle of golfing titans this morning. For his part, Victor is able to see a ball resting on the tee, but he'll be relying on his coach, Juergen Werner, to line him up and help him navigate around the course.

Victor has also kindly lined up a coach to help me and my special glasses -- lent to me by the nice folks at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind -- find our way.

Naturally, I wondered whether, with our limited vision, we will pose a danger to ourselves or others as we whack balls in random directions. Over the phone, I could hear Victor shrugging.

"No!" he said, snickering. "That's why we have coaches -- to make sure we don't knock someone's brains out. Ha ha ha!"

In Wednesday's paper, I'll give you an honest blow-by-blow account of our clash. Better still, you'll be able to see video highlights of the match on our website at www.winnipegfreepress.com . Golf fan or not, you should watch the video. Because you can. Which is nice.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2012 A2

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