Disabled vet makes most of ‘blind’ golf shots

BY BEN SCHUFF | JULY 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Eldon Miller played 18 holes at Finkbine golf course on Monday in nearly the same fashion as everyone else.

His shots were rarely used in the Lion’s Club best-ball Swing for Sight tournament, but he didn’t let it bother him too much.

He was just happy to be out there.

“These golf tournaments are lifesavers,” the 58-year-old Vietnam War veteran said. “They get you out [and] get you doing something, rather than sitting in the house staring at the walls all day, 24/7.”

During his time in Vietnam, a C-4 bomb blow up on him. The result was a major loss of eyesight.

“In my right eye, I’ve got one-half of one degree,” Miller said. “It’s the equivalent of you looking through a drinking straw.”

The sight in his left eye deteriorated this past winter to the point where he can’t see with it; he said the eye can’t focus on anything.

But thanks to the Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere Foundation, he’s able to play a game he loves. The foundation provides free clubs and instruction to disabled veterans and their family members who are interested in learning about the sport.

Russ Irvine, an instructor for the foundation, said this year’s lessons started in April, when Blue Top Ridge Golf Course in Riverside, Iowa, opened after the winter. Veterans receive lessons in five-week increments and learn everything from swing basics to golf etiquette.

Irvine, also a disabled Vietnam veteran, was out at Finkbine on Monday helping Miller around the course.

“Golf is a very good game to get people out and get people together,” Irvine said. “A lot of disabled veterans don’t get out of the house. They introvert themselves.

“We’re using [golf] as a way to get them out [and] get them to do something that is low-impact and … something they can enjoy.”

Irvine and two other veterans in Miller’s foursome — Mike Hull and Chad Page — helped spot the 58-year-old by standing directly in between him and the line his ball should have taken to the hole.

Miller has derived his own system to read breaks in the greens when it comes to the short game. With the help of a guide, the Kalona, Iowa, resident walks from his ball to the hole and back.

On the first hole, the group had a roughly 30-foot putt from the back of the green. Miller’s ball ended up closest to the hole, missing left by only a few inches.

“He’s a deadly putter,” Irvine said.

Hull said he had met Miller before, but Monday was the first time he golfed with him.

“He’s an inspiration for all of us,” Hull said. “He’s going to make the best of [his situation]. He’s not gonna let it interfere with his life.”

While his shots may not have always been the best of the group, Miller said humor plays a big part in getting through his days and the course.

“These guys have been out playing for years,” he said. “What do you say we put a blindfold around them and see how they do?”

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