It would be an understatement to say that the summer has been a busy one for Darren Douma. Over a two-week stretch, he hosted three blind golf championships in the East Kootenay: the B.C. provincials in Creston, the Western Canadian championship in Kimberley and the Canadian championship in Cranbrook.
Although exhausted by the challenge of organizing the events, Douma said they met his priorities of both ensuring the competitors had a great time on regionals courses and raising awareness of blind golf.
“Our motto at Blind Golf Canada is, ‘We can still play,’ ” said Douma. “Many people still hear that the blind and partially sighted can play golf and cannot believe it. … Anyone coping with vision loss can participate in any sport, whether on a recreational or competitive level. You just need to believe in yourself and look at your ability, not your disability.”
Douma was diagnosed in 2005 with Stargardt disease, an incurable and rare genetic juvenile form of macular degeneration, affecting central fine vision. He has since placed highly in Canadian, Australian, international and other championships, and hosted the Canadian championships (2015) and Vision Cup (2017) at the Creston Golf Club.
The tournaments he organized and hosted this year, sponsored by BC Golf and BC Blind Sports, kicked off with the BC Blind Golf Championships, which ran July 5 and 6 at the Creston Golf Club. Five B.C. players participated, and two of those were two newcomers, including Creston’s Howard Colwell, who, along with sight coach Jim Mcleod, became the B.C. senior champion.
“In blind golf, all players rely heavily on their coaches on and off the golf course,” said Douma. “Without the coaches, they could not play.”
The Western Canadian Blind Golf Championships followed, held at Kimberley’s Bootleg Gap Golf Course from July 9-19. Seven Americans, as well as players from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Israel, Mexico and South Korea, joined 31 Canadian competitors. The event followed Stableford rules, with Tyler Thompson of Lexington, Ky., becoming overall low net Stableford champion, guided by sight coach Lawrence Ward of Creston.
Participants from the Kimberley event also attended the ISPS (International Sport Promotion Society) Handa Canadian Blind Golf Championships, held July 12 and 13 at St. Eugene Golf Resort, where four additional golfers from Canada and the U.S. joined them.
Douma, coached by Creston’s Walt Harder, was runner up in the B3 (about 10 per cent vision) category, while Creston sight coach George Goulder assisted Redcliff, Alta., golfer Roy Bert in rolling his first-ever hole in one on the seventh hole.
The recent competitions will be the last ones that Douma hosts in the Kootenays, having decided to step back and allow others to host and organize events elsewhere. It won’t be the last time he competes, though—he’s already planning to attend the Ontario provincial and Canadian championships in Guelph, Ont., in August 2020.
Douma is grateful for the support of his wife, Brooke, children, Aiden and Lily, and his parents, Dick and Marie, as well as volunteer leaders Virginia and Walt Harder, who are also members of the Canadian Council of the Blind-Visually Impaired-Blind Empowerment Creston chapter.
“They have supported my endeavours on and off the golf course, and I could not have done it without them,” said Douma.
He also appreciates the strong support of the community, sponsors and volunteers—who dealt with everything from scoring to coaching to flower arranging—that allowed him to bring blind golf events to the Kootenays.
“It was always a great pride to share our golf course and the community of Creston with all our many visitors over these past events,” he said. “We live in a great community, a great province and a great country, so it’s a honour and privilege to be able to share this with others. So, thanks, Creston!”