Israeli is Worlds Top Blind Golfer

By Associated PressDecember 27, 2005, 5:00 pm
The ball explodes off Zohar Sharon's club and flies into the distance. Sharon can't see it, but he knows it's a good one and he flashes a big smile. Two strokes later, he has a birdie.
 
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.
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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.