Six months later, Olson played the same South Course at Torrey Pines and the hook was set. “I fell in love with the game then and there,” he said. “It was really cool to play a course the caliber of Torrey Pines where Tiger had won. So I really wanted to start practicing hard and maybe make a professional career out of it one day.”
Then, suddenly, he was unlike other kids of his or any other generation. “I was playing decently for a 12-year old,” he said. “Then I learned I would have to go blind.”
(Photo courtesy of TravisMathew)
When Olson was a toddler, he was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer, retinoblastoma, that cost him his left eye. He battled the same cancer in his right eye for the next 12 years, then he lost that eye, too.
A tragedy? On the surface, maybe. But there is nothing superficial about Olson, who has proven to be unlike virtually anyone any of us likely has ever known. He is a senior at Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High and plays on its varsity golf team. He also played on the varsity football team as its long snapper, will enroll at USC in the fall and will walk-on as a long snapper for the Trojans.
“Someday, he’s going to snap in a game for us,” USC football coach Steve Sarkisian told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week. “When? I don't know. But it will happen. When that day comes, it will be awesome.”
As for golf, “going blind was a setback,” he said.
It would seem so. But it was more than that. A substantial growth spurt, six inches, was a major contributing factor to his inability to unite the center of the clubface with the golf ball. “Probably for a good six months to a year I was trying to make consistent solid contact on the ball,” he said. “There had been days that were total frustration, throwing clubs, not seeing results, just frustrating. But I wasn’t going to let it stop me.
“Now, five-and-a-half years later, it’s gotten to the point that the things I struggle with are things that any other golfer struggles with — fine tuning my swing and repeating the same swing.”
His father Brian flatly said, “he plays better golf now than before he lost his sight.”
Olson, a developmental team member for apparel company TravisMathew, requires a caddie, of course, either Brian or a teammate. “It’s a simple routine,” Brian said. “Get him lined up, get the club behind ball, and then I back away. My main role is to get his club squared up behind the ball.”
The most notable challenge for Olson, whose home course is Seacliff Country Club in Huntington Beach, is playing a course with which he is not familiar. “He’s dialed into a certain 10-foot putt and when thrown onto a strange course, he’s probably in the 90s,” Brian said. “If it’s a course he’s familiar with he’s in the 80s. His best round is a 78 at this point and he’s capable on any given day of shooting 39 [over nine holes].”
Hilly courses present issues, too, Olson said. “But if you get me on tight grass with a flat lie, I really play well.”
Olson, incidentally, already is an author and accomplished motivational speaker (website: openyoureyes.org).
“There are people out there with perfect sight who can’t hit a golf ball,” he said in one such speech. “For a blind person to even make solid contact, that’s absurd, right?”
GolfDigest.com regularly highlights golf books we find of interest to readers. This week is:
Stuff Every Golfer Should Know
By Brian Bertoldo, Quirk Books, $9.95, hardback, 144 pages
The axiom that you "can't judge a book by its cover" claims another example with Stuff Every Golfer Should Know. From the outside the book could be considered cute with its inviting green argyle design and 6 x 3 3/4-inch dimension, making it perfect for a golf bag, back pocket or purse. It's a book you can feel like clutching onto. And the all-inclusive title promises nuggets for all to mine.
Inside in the author's introduction, however, he makes the distinction between previous sources (presumably books) that try to provide everything as opposed to the "stuff" he has written about. And that really is rub for a book of this type. Books that provide "everything you need to know" are one of the most common golf subjects in print, and invariably they fail to deliver. The writer must decide: Is it better to promise the world but not deliver on an impossible premise or aim low and risk not having enough insightful detail to interest the majority of readers?Related: Catch up on other Golf Digest book reviews
Bertoldo, a freelance writer and avid golfer, has taken the "less is more" approach, writing about nuances of the game that are "often learned through interaction with other golfers, not from golf pros or swing gurus." The book's "stuff" consists of etiquette, history, playing-the-game dos and don'ts and strategy. Unfortunately, most of this will sound familiar to the average golfer, but where the content does have value is as "stuff" for the total newbie to the game. And in that regard, it indeed is stuff every golfer should get to know to enjoy golf to the max. I particularly liked: A couple of sections that would probably be of the most interest to the non-beginning golfer -- a couple pages on betting games and how to calculate a handicap.
Will Tiger Woods’ China course project be derailed by Xi Jinping, the president of the People’s Republic of China and his crackdown on building new courses there? “Golf’s hope is that its reappearance at the Olympics next year will grab the attention of the state and persuade Mr Xi to invest rather than interfere,” James Corrigan of the Telegraph writes. “Yet nobody can be sure. In Mr Xi’s mission to cleanse, everyone and everything is expendable, including golf and Woods. So good luck, Tiger, although do stay positive. After all, the red shirt might help.”
Du Sha, chairman of Pacific Links International, and Tiger Woods
Kelly Gibson and Tommy Moore, “Bond on the Bayou,” the headline says, were boyhood friends and PGA Tour players determined to play the Masters together. “Every Augusta week it almost makes me cry to think that we both had chances to get there,and we both missed out,” Gibson said in this story by Brian Allee-Walsh at PGATour.com. Moore died in 1998 of a rare blood disease.
The decline of Tiger Woods put golf “in a funk,” Ron Higgins of the Times-Picayune writes, but Jordan Spieth’s Masters victory has lifted it from its funk. “Golf is in safe hands now,” said Justin Rose, the world’s ninth ranked golfer. “It’s not like who's going to take over, it’s pretty evident with what Jordan has done, with what Rory [McIlroy] has done.”
It has been a harrowing couple of weeks for Australian Marc Leishman and wife Audrey. The latter nearly died from toxic shock syndrome. “It really put things in perspective,” Leishman said in this story by Brian Wacker of PGATour.com. “You have your bad days on the course, or think it’s a bad day then you go through something like this. Your life gets turned upside down. Three weeks ago it was looking like I was going to be done with golf.”
The world's top-ranked golfer gave a talk and hosted a clinic when he made a surprise appearance at a Nike-sponsored junior golf event at Sage Valley. But when it came to displaying strength, it was Dalke who put on the clinic. Here's the video he posted to Twitter with the caption, "Sorry Rory."
Sorry Rory 💪🏿 pic.twitter.com/vYgnRk0PF0— Brad Dalke (@BradDalkeGolf) April 25, 2015
Dalke first made news when he verbally committed to University of Oklahoma as a 12-year-old in 2010. His latest conquest certainly won't hurt his big-man-on-campus status when he arrives in Norman in the fall.
As for Rory, there's no reason for him to be embarrassed. It's not like he works out a lot or anything. Oh, right.
1. Ariana Grande: News of a breakup between the pop star and rapper "Big Sean" broke earlier in the week, giving hope to millions of men out there who are smitten by the 21-year-old songstress. But should they be? Apparently, Big Sean didn't think Grande was putting as much effort into the relationship as he was and he was upset about her bringing Justin Bieber up on stage during a recent concert. Ugh, anyone but the Biebs (sorry, we've been watching too much E! News). We feel you, Big Sean.
2. Stephen Curry's latest ridiculous shot: This guy makes a play or two every game that makes you shake your head in disbelief. On Thursday night, it was hitting a three-pointer from the corner in the closing seconds while being tackled by two players to tie Game 3 of Golden State's first round series with New Orleans. The crazy shot capped an even crazier fourth-quarter comeback by the Warriors, who trailed by 20 at one point before winning in OT to take a 3-0 series lead. As if we didn't already know it, Curry -- and this team -- are going to be tough to beat.
3. Mets-Yankees: The latest version of the "Subway Series" will take place at Yankee Stadium this weekend between two baseball teams on surprisingly good runs. Of course, no one has been better than the Mets, who will enter Friday night's game in the Bronx with an 11-game winning streak and ace Matt Harvey on the mound. The Mets have an MLB-best record of 13-3. Imagine if their owner, Jeff Wilpon, wasn't so cheap?
4. Bernie Williams: My all-time favorite Yankee officially retired on Wednesday. You know, nine years after he played his last game in pinstripes. This prompted a slew of "how will the Yankees replace him in the lineup?" jokes, but it also caused people to remember how great of a player he was (but yeah, they could probably still use him against the Mets this weekend). And how many former MLB All-Stars are also classically trained guitar players and acclaimed recording artists? As Yankees radio announcer John Sterling used to say, "Bern baby, Bern!"
5. YouTube Turns 10: Speaking of taking a trip down Memory Lane, can you believe this integral part of millennial living has been around for a decade? This is one of those simple, yet brilliant ideas that you wish you could turn back the clock and come up with. The three guys who did made a few bucks. Anyway, I don't think there's a way to see what video you've viewed the most, but I'm pretty sure it's this clip of grainy Baron Davis highlights from his brief days at UCLA:
That's the best highlight compilation (watch the last 30 seconds) in my opinion, but there's no debating what the funniest -- albeit unintentional -- highlight compilation is:
Poor guy. Thank you, YouTube.
Just like real life, the new Rory McIlroy EA Sports game forces you to play bump-and-runs in Scotland
David Thore, now 61, was in the group and calculated he had 140 yards to the back pin position, “a good 8-iron for me,” he said. His tee shot splashed down short of the front bunker, setting the tone for one of the most infamous holes in tournament golf.
Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union caught up with Thore and recounts the shot here.
“I don’t mind being known by that little bit of trivia,” Thore told Smits. “Every year when the Players comes on TV, I remind the guys at the club that I’ve got something from that tournament no one else will ever have.”‿
The club is Oreander Golf Center in in Wilmington, N.C., where he is a teaching pro.
Thore also told Smits that other a brief interview with a New York Times reporter immediately after his round, he’s not been asked about it since.
The New York Times reporter was Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Dave Anderson, a Golf Digest contributor. He was there that day and wrote a column on the 17th hole, with the headline, “Splash! Splash! Splash!” Anderson wrote:
Although only 132 yards, the 17th is suddenly golf's most notorious new hole. And yesterday it opened for business with a splash as the Tournament Players Championship began. One splash after another, in fact, in the lake where an alligator was floating in the sun
“Congratulations,” somebody said to David Thore after he shot 77, you’re the first ever to put it in the water on 17 in competition.”
“Thank you,” David Thore said with a smile. “And after I put my next shot on, I was the first ever to three-putt it in competition, too.”
And so it began.
On Friday morning, Woods broke news by announcing he would tee it up at the Players in two weeks. And two hours later, he posted this humorous photo with Yao Ming:
Hello Yao, awesome day at Nike campus in Shanghai. pic.twitter.com/ufn4147z1s— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) April 24, 2015
Woods is in China "to energize young athletes' love for golf," according to a Nike press release on Wednesday. And after watching this video of Yao Ming playing golf, we assume the former NBA star is hanging out with Woods to get some lessons: