Israeli is Worlds Top Blind Golfer
With the help of a demanding coach, determined caddie and dedicated dog, Sharon has earned an unlikely title - the world's best blind golfer.
Thousands of blind people around the world play golf, but only about a hundred play competitively. Over the past two years, Sharon has dominated them all.
On Nov. 14, he made headlines at home with a hole-in-one on the 15th hole at the Caeserea Golf Club, Israel's only 18-hole course. It was the latest in a string of achievements for the 53-year-old Sharon, who was blinded in the army more than 25 years ago.
Since 2003, he's won international blind golfers' tournaments in Scotland, Australia the United States and Canada, where he sank his first eagle at the Ontario Visually Impaired Golfer's championship in August. He's faced off against President Ford in California. And he's beaten a slew of sighted golfers, too.
Sharon may have lost his eyesight, but not his sense of humor. He described himself as 'the world's greatest golf player at night.'
'I want every seeing person to have their legs shake with fear a little when they come play a round with me,' he added.
Then Sharon turned serious. Golf kept him alive, he said, rescuing him from severe depression.
'I enjoy golf more than a seeing man, a lot more,' he said. 'The grass is always green to me. The trees are always beautiful. ... But golf is also therapeutic for me. I try, for just one moment, not to be blind.'
Out on the grass, swinging his arms and spinning around carelessly, he said he was free. It's the one place he doesn't need to worry about bumping into anything, he said, and it keeps his mind engrossed.
'It doesn't give me one minute to think about my situation,' he said.
His ordeal began nearly 30 years ago while in the Israeli military. He was a sniper in a paratrooper unit when a fellow soldier accidentally sprayed a chemical in his face. A series of complicated operations followed, but his eyesight slowly deteriorated until he became completely blind at 28.
'Everything I had before fell apart,' he said. 'All of a sudden you are nothing, a 3-year-old is more productive than you. You have to rebuild something from what is left. You have to understand what it is you want to do with your life.'
For Sharon, the trick was to stay busy. He first turned to painting and sculpting and then became a physical therapist. When he was going through a divorce, his lawyer introduced him to golf. He tried it for a couple of years but quit because he said it was too hard.
After a 10-year absence, he returned to the golf course four years ago.
Sharon's coach is Ricardo Cordoba-Core, a sports psychologist from Bolivia. He trained Sharon from scratch, focusing on coordination and teaching him to visualize each shot. It was months before he even let Sharon hold a club.
Cordoba came up with quirky techniques for Sharon to develop his swing. He had him sweep the floor at home, using the broom as if it were a club. He tied Sharon's arms to his body and made him swing with his hips. And when he finally gave him a club, he had him hit tiny coins. He stood Sharon by a pole so if his swing were off he'd get smacked in the head.
'He was a challenge for me,' the 66-year-old Cordoba said. 'Like David vs. Goliath.'
At times, he turned Sharon's handicap into an advantage. Cordoba said many golfers became anxious when faced with the sight of bunkers and water traps.
'I just don't tell him about it,' he said, with a smirk.
Sharon said the game 'is all about the swing.'
'In golf there are no restrictions for blind people,' he said, before adding, 'if you have a good caddie.'
Sharon's good caddie is Shimshon Levi, his best friend whom he's known since childhood. Levi cared for Sharon during his darkest hours after he turned blind.
'Since then I am connected to this person, as if I am connected to him through an artery. I just love him deeply,' Sharon said.
Levi gently guides him around the course, plants his tees and places the balls. He steadies Sharon's arms and describes what's ahead. When putting, he places Sharon's hand on the club so it is just next to the ball, instructs his friend of the distance and then runs to the hole and begins clapping so Sharon will know where to hit it.
Sometimes it's Levi, not Sharon, who takes the heat when things don't go right.
'What are you doing?' Cordoba yelled at Levi when one ball rolled off target. 'You are his eyes!'
The last member of this winning team is Dylan, Sharon's guide dog. Sharon said Dylan, a 6-year-old labrador-retriever mix, used to fetch balls that had gone astray.
'But then I got better and he started fetching the good balls, too,' Sharon said. 'So I had to make him stop.'
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.
Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.
Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.
In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.
Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.
Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.
Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ
Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year
And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.