Eleven-year-old Dubliner Carol Brill had learned to cope with not being able to hear, but she didn’t realise then that she would also lose her sight.
“When I was young, my mom noticed I wasn’t speaking properly. I would say ‘brahdoo’ for bread. She felt that I had some sort of speech difficulty. It was discovered that I had a hearing loss, so I got hearing aids. My mom was just brilliant. She actually taught me how to speak properly.”
Medical tests would then reveal the young Irish girl had a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa.
Life would be difficult in her teenage years and sport was off the agenda. Carol was only able to name her condition and get the right prognosis once diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, aged 21.
Fast forward to 2015, and Carol’s own daughter, Sara, was busy at school. Now, the realisation that there could be some ‘Carol Time’ was life changing.
After a few twists and turns, Carol decided to try golf and visited the Leopardstown Golf Centre, Dublin. She fell in love with the game.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time. Because it’s sort of like a physical meditation. You’re standing there, and you’re checking your balance, your posture, you’re checking your head. You’re developing this self-awareness.
“What I love about just standing there on the golf mat is you’re just coming into an awareness of yourself, and it is relaxing. You just forget about everything. All you’re doing is focusing on your swing, focusing on the ball. Not that I see all of the ball, but you have something to focus on and you just forget who you are, what you are, wherever you are.”
Today, Carol even uses her golfing thoughts as a way to bring tranquility into life. “I was undergoing surgery and was hyperventilating. The surgeon just said, ‘Focus on something that makes you calm.’ So, all I kept doing was pretending I was on the tee. That’s how I got through that horrific experience.”
Carol describes her field of vision as like looking through a tiny peephole. “So, when I’m addressing the ball on the tee, my guide will put down the club to kind of line me up. I don’t even see all of the club. I scan the club so that I can adjust my position and then focus on the ball. I just see a white blob, and I don’t see the club beside it.”
Guides are vital for golfers with a visual impairment. Fortunately, quite a few members at her home club of Stackstown (the members here are determined to make golf accessible for all) are part of a WhatsApp group called the Girl Guides. “I can just go into the chat room, message and say, ‘Girls, I’d like to go out next week. Is there anyone to walk with me?’ When I go out with one of the ladies, if it’s their first time, I see this more about teaching them how to guide. I’m trying to spread awareness, and I want to enable more people to play golf.”
Carol has put a lot of heart and time in recent years for three charities: Fighting Blindness, CUREUsher and The Anne Sullivan Foundation, which is the national association for deaf-blind people in Ireland.
And the best news is, with the help of her guides who are also her great friends, she is still loving every minute of playing golf.
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