A 25th Career win at 87!

With yet another win this May – John White of the WABGA reflects on his time playing blind golf and what it means for him to still be playing (and winning) at the age of 87.

John was born in the US and pursued a career working on large scale engineering projects, firstly in the US and then worldwide. This brought John to Australia to lead a project at Exmouth for the US Navy. Western Australia must have made an impression on John as he has made it his home ever since – marrying Gaye from WA and launching his own engineering and design company.

Golf was always a passion for John and he has been a member of Royal Perth for the last 50 years. However John found he was to lose 90% of his sight due to macular degeneration when he was in his mid seventies. “I was ready to turn up my toes” he remembers. “Losing my sight was devastating.” It was a suggestion from John’s ophthalmologist that started John playing blind golf.

John White with caddie Ross Thompson being presented the VisAbility Blind Golf Seniors Trophy in 2015 by Debra Barnes, Executive Manager, Operations of VisAbility.

John White with caddie Ross Thompson being presented the VisAbility Blind Golf Seniors Trophy in 2015 by Debra Barnes, Executive Manager, Operations of VisAbility.


“To be honest I hadn’t heard of blind golf” says John “and I was a bit dubious”. However he found that the game is intrinsically the same – played to the same R&A Rules as regular golf, and with no gimmicks. “Learning to rely on my caddie to spot the ball and help line me up was something to get used to”.

It wasn’t long before John started winning trophies and has now amassed an amazing 25 trophies in blind golf, including his latest – winner of the National Stableford held in Adelaide, South Australia in May 2016. “I’ve been fortunate to play golf not just across Australia but in Canada, the US and Japan too.” John has also enjoyed playing in pro-am games and has lined up with Jan Stephenson and Peter Senior. John has also appreciated the contribution of his caddies – long term friend Ross Thompson, and his wife Gaye who caddied for him in his recent win – in addition to friends from Royal Perth Golf Club who have helped him over the years.

John continues to look to the future – even at 87! “I want to continue to play golf, but also to work to promote the sport and encourage people to play.” It’s unlikely to be the last trophy that we see in John’s cabinet…

John with his collection of trophies

John with his collection of trophies

If you know of anyone who has lost their sight and would benefit like John in playing golf – the Western Australian Blind Golf Association (WABGA) will give them a warm welcome. Contact the President Gerry Brown on 9293 2517 to find out more.

It has brought me out into the world again

Ray Hankins played golf all his adult life. In later life his eyesight deteriorated and he could no longer work. All aspects of his life changed – he could no longer drive and had to rely on others.  After running his own business and having an active life, he found his vision loss very isolating and had very little contact with the outside world.

Ray HankinsIt was his family that heard about Blind Golf and suggested that he met up with them to try a game. Something as relatively simple as a weekly game of golf with like-minded people gave Ray a purpose in life again and something to look forward to.  Ray explains “I enjoy golf as a great outing and play with many others in the same category as myself. It is great company. It has brought great enjoyment back into my life.  To anyone in the similar situation, I sincerely encourage you to have a try at Blind Golf.  It has brought me out into the world again.”

As soon as I walked into the clubroom I realised that we were all in the same boat

Doug Golding is currently Vice President of the Western Australian Blind Golf Association.  However, this has not always been the case.  Doug had in fact only been an occasional golfer before he lost his sight to Macular Degeneration in middle age. He was encouraged to become involved with blind golf by his wife Lynne.  Doug was reluctant to try blind golf at first but Lynne was able to talk him into giving it a go.

Doug Golding

“As soon as I walked into the clubroom I realised that we were all in the same boat. You couldn’t have made a fool of yourself if you’d wanted to!” says Doug. From then on he has become more and more involved in blind golf and has made a strong group of golfing friends.  Doug enjoys tournaments with a highlight being a trip to England to play the British Open in 2010.