69: There Is No “I” in Team

69: There Is No “I” in Team

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

There Is No “I” in Team

Bob and Tina Andrews work together like a well-oiled machine. She sets him up on the tee box, steps back, looks down the fairway and says, “Okay.” He takes a deep breath and swings, and the ball sails down the left side of the first fairway at Killearn Country Club near their Tallahassee, Florida, home.

They display impressive teamwork. Bob Andrews is totally blind. Tina, his wife, is his “coach,” and together they make up one of the best teams in the United States Blind Golf Association.

“The first thing you learn is that blind golf is a team sport,” says Bob, fifty-one, who was blinded by a grenade in Vietnam in 1967. “Until you have a coach, you’re not a blind golfer. You’re just a blind person with some golf clubs.”

Bob and Tina were married not long after he returned from Vietnam. He took up golf first for the exercise. “I tried running,” he says with a laugh, “but you get tired of taking those falls.”

He had played golf as a kid, but he was never serious about it until he became blind. He joined the USBGA, and in 1995 he became president.

Tina is his third coach. Andrews’s father did it at first, but it got to be too much for him. Then, Andrews’s son took a turn. But he soon went off to college. That left Tina, who isn’t a golfer, but Bob actually thinks that’s a plus because she doesn’t overload him with information. All she does is point him in the right direction.

After they play a couple of holes, it’s understood how they do what they do. Or so you think. “Ready to try it?” asks Bob.

You stammer for a few moments, then answer weakly, “Sure.”

Until you’ve “coached” a blind golfer, you can’t appreciate how hard it is—and how wonderful it is when things go right. You find that you’ve never been so interested in someone else’s golf game.

Bob holds the club out in front of him, and the first thing the coach does is place the club firmly on the ground, right behind the ball, square to the target. This serves as an anchor. Next is the position of his feet, also square to the target. Then the shoulders. When everything is right, a simple “okay” is all he needs.

Andrews swings, and the ball takes off. “Little fade down the right side?” he asks, judging the ball’s path by its feel.

“Yep. Little fade down the right side.”

Later, Andrews has about 160 yards, of which about 140 is a carry over water. “What do we got?” he asks.

“About 160 yards, over water,” you say.

“Oh, boy,” he says. “Let’s try a 7-wood.” After he’s set up, Andrews spends a little more time standing over this shot. He hits it a little fat and it splashes in the water. Your heart sinks. That wouldn’t have happened if Tina were coaching. “See, I wouldn’t have even told him about the water,” she says. “No point in giving him one more thing to worry about. Take advantage of his disadvantage, know what I mean?”

After dropping, Andrews hits a nice pitching wedge over the water and onto the green. You lead Andrews by the arm to the spot where his ball rests, then walk with him to the flagstick. “Fourteen feet,” he says. “A little left-to-right, slightly uphill.”

Andrews reads his own putts, feeling the contour of the green through his shoes. This seems amazing. But when you step behind him to take a look, you come to the same conclusion: left-to-right, slightly uphill.

You set him up with the putter’s face aiming just outside the left edge of the cup.

“How’s that look?” he asks.

“Perfect,” you say. But you cross your fingers. His putting stroke is smooth and sure, a perfect pendulum. On its final rotation, the ball ducks into the left side of the cup. Andrews hears the hollow sound of a holed putt. It is a sweet sound indeed.

“Hey,” you say as you head to the next tee, “that was a great bogey you made back there.”

“No,” he says, “that was a great bogey we made.”

~Dave Sheinin
Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul

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