By Stephen Dafoe
Namao – Blind golfer Johanna Camarta was 25 when she first noticed something wasn’t right with her vision. Driving with her husband one night she noticed that when she closed one eye she could see the tail lights ahead of her, but when she closed the other she could not.
Upon investigation the situation with an eye specialist it was determined Camarta had macular degeneration, a condition that usually occurs in someone much older. A decade later the degeneration was in both Camarta’s eyes and she was declared legally blind.
“They took my driver’s licence away and I’ve seen some worse drivers than me out there,” Camarta joked with Namao students who’d come to hear the Riviere Qui Barre woman tell her inspirational story last Thursday morning.
But although the legally blind woman is no longer legally able to drive, she told students that her lack of vision does not prevent her from doing many things she did before, including playing golf.
“Blind golf is a fantastic sport,” Camarta said, adding success in the game is all about timing. “That was the hardest part about any blind sport. It takes a lot of patience to slow yourself down to allow someone to coach you.”
Camarta explained coaching consists of another person guiding the blind golfer by lining up their putter to the ball and helping them in other ways.
“It’s a team effort more than an individual effort,” Camarta said. “Golf is an individual sport, but when you play blind golf it actually is a team sport.”
Camarta said she was nervous when she took up blind golf and entered her first tournament in 2000, but quickly overcame her reservations. Since that first tournament, Camarta has competed in three world championships, demonstrated the sport in Japan, Taipei and Hong Kong and played courses in Northern Ireland, Scotland and across Canada.
“The best part about playing any sport is you are with people who are interested in the same thing,” she said, adding in the case of her chosen sport she was with other blind golfers. “When you are with a lot of people that have the same disability you have, it feels very comfortable.”