Thursday April 14, 2011
Game for more
WHEN Yam Tong Woo received an invitation recently to participate in an indoor golf competition, he was caught by surprise. He was puzzled that the game was to take place right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur in Jalan Kia Peng, where there are no golf courses.
Yam, 57, who lost his sight more than three years ago, was to compete against sighted golfers. The battle was to take place in a room with a wide screen that would provide a simulated computer golf game experience.
Each competitor would be given golf clubs and a ball. Everything else takes place in a virtual golf course on the big screen.
“Despite the circumstances, the competition proved to be just as challenging,” said Yam, who hails from Sungai Buloh in Selangor.
Yam has played in several golf events, including the Handa Singapore Classic last year. He says it was not easy getting back to a sport that he loved so much before he became blind.
“I had to re-learn almost every single thing in the sport,” he explained. “After becoming blind following a mysterious infection, I had to adapt and learn to move around with a white cane. More importantly, I had to get used to living in a new, dark world. I made new friends and learned to get on with life.”
Yam was not the only blind person who took part in the indoor golf competition that afternoon. Two of his blind friends, tagged along to the Golf Club KL City Centre. They were keen to discover blind golf, too.
They had a great time, and to top it off, each of them was given a one-year honorary membership to use the golfing facilities.
Just like in a regular golf practising range in the open, Yam was guided into position with his 7-iron golf club. Then a golf ball was placed in a perfect position for him to strike.
Although there wasn’t a real field in front of him, his physical strike was recorded by cameras controlled by a computer.
The force, angle and aim of his hits were projected on the screen and read out to him during the game.
“The details of my performance allowed me to analyse my shots and make the necessary adjustments in order to deliver neat shots each time,” said Yam.
“As a blind golfer, I have to get used to a lot of sounds such as the ball hitting the big screen in front of me to grasp the game better. I had to take note of the fact that the game was played in an enclosed cubicle and in a U-shaped area, so the sound of the club striking the ball was actually louder than it would be in an open field,” he added.
“Naturally, these new challenges made me nervous at first but I got over it after the first few tries.”
In the computerised field, a popular US golf course was selected via the console controller. According to Yam, this made the game more interesting.
Yam could feel the adrenaline rush as the scores were automatically computed for the duration of the game.
“I couldn’t help feeling just as nervous about the game as I did standing on the tee-box in a normal golf course even though I am not able to see what is happening in both situations,” Yam pointed out.
“Although everything happened on the big screen, it was amazing how real it felt hearing the sounds of the ball entering a few pin holes, as well as the bad shots as the ball landed in water with a splash.
“Indoor blind golf will certainly open new doors of opportunities for people with disabilities,” Yam added.