The Creston Valley has a new claim to fame: it’s the home of the second-place overall winner of this year’s World Blind Golf Championships and Australian Blind Golf Open, which ran May 9-18.
Darren Douma competed in his sight category, B3, in both events, playing against golfers including 2012 world champion Jeremy Poincenot, earlier this month at the Nelson Bay Golf Club near Port Stephens, New South Wales.
“To come that close playing against that calibre and experience, I’m even more proud of where I ended up,” Douma said.
In 2005, the 42-year-old was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, an incurable and rare genetic juvenile form of macular degeneration, affecting central fine vision. He’s enjoyed golfing for over 30 years, and was determined to continue playing as his vision worsened.
About 60 players took part in each tournament, and Douma was one of five Canadians. Three of the Canadians brought their own sight coaches — to assist with travel and game play — but Douma and a Vancouver player requested Australian sight coaches. Douma said his ended up acting more as a caddy, carrying his clubs and fixing divots.
“They were awesome ambassadors for their country,” he said.
Despite the assistance, playing on the unfamiliar course wasn’t without frustration.
“My motto is, ‘You stray, you pay,” and I strayed a lot,” Douma said.
Although he felt ready to give up during each round, but shook the feeling off after the eighth or ninth hole.
“You can only control what you’re doing,” he said.
The competitions in Australia have only whet Douma’s appetite for more, and with his second-place ranking, he should be able to attend the world championships in Japan in 2016.
But before that, the Creston Golf Club will host the Canadian championships from July 7-12, 2015. And in August, Douma will visit Truro, N.S., for this year’s Canadian Blind Golf open tournament.
While he’s extremely grateful for the community’s support for this year’s trips — both from private donations and a dinner-dance fundraiser — he hopes to find a sponsor to help him continue in these world-class tournaments.
“I don’t want to rely on the community to that extent, but they got the ball rolling,” he said. “It was an amazing experience.”