THE British Blind Open golf tournament is coming to Galgorm in the Summer.
Ballymena man Drew Cochrane, who is Chairman of the Northern Ireland Blind Golf Association, told Guardian Sport it is a “dream come true” for him to be getting the opportunity to play such a prestigious competition on his own back door.
The 79-year-old said he is proud that Galgorm Castle Golf Club has been selected to host the British Blind Open.
“I am honoured that Galgorm is getting the opportunity to host this event. I am getting on a bit, so honestly I did not think I would get the chance to play the British at my home town course,” outlined Cochrane.
“This is yet again a major plus for Galgorm Castle Golf Club, and the surrounding area. I expect the economy to be boosted quite a bit with the influx of players and their guides and friends. It is good news all round.”
The British Blind Open sees arrival day on Sunday, June 28. Monday,, June 29, will be practise day, while Tuesday, June 30, and Wednesday, July 1, are the actual competition days.
In addition to the golf tournament, the competitors will be involved in a Blind Confidence/Sport Inclusion Day for Children and Youth and the Award of the James Joyce Art and Essay Competition.
The Northern Ireland Blind Golf Association Chairman, who lives in Ballymena, will compete in the British Blind Open.
Along with guide, Warren Stewart, from Newtownabbey, he intends giving a good account of himself on his home course.
“I am very grateful to Galgorm Castle Golf Club, and Ballymena Golf Club, who allow me free use of their excellent facilities,” said Cochrane.
Players from all over, including Canada, America, Austria, Italy, England, Scotland, England, Israel, Holland and the South of Ireland, will converge at Galgorm for the British Blind Open.
* Back in March last year Cochrane officially launched his book, ‘From the Carry Row to Tokyo’, in The Braid (Town Hall) in Ballymena.
In the book he recalls family life as a young boy in the 1940s, his working life and the challenges of coping with a sight loss condition which developed quite suddenly in his 30s.
This led to depression, and he later became a dedicated volunteer and fund raiser with the Samaritans.
In the book’s forward well-known sports presenter Jackie Fullerton outlined how Drew had tackled adversity and despair head on - “and came out of that dark tunnel still smiling with his fortitude and humour still intact.”
Jackie recalled how Drew had lost his sight at the age of 39 - and how he took up Blind Golf, winning the Northern Ireland title numerous times and at one stage being ranked in the top 12 in the world. He describes the shock of sudden loss of sight in his thirties, and the end of his career as a builder.
After struggles with despair and depression, he recovered to become a volunteer with the Samaritans.
With blind golf Drew has traveled the world to compete at top level in all five continents, bringing back many trophies.