WHEN father-of-four Gerry Kelly went blind at the age of 40, he feared his life was over.
A high-flying laboratory manager with petrochemicals giant ICI, he had his future mapped out and didn’t for one minute think he would lose his sight.
But rather than let his blindness overcome him, Gerry decided to throw himself into golf – even though he’d never played before.
And now aged 75, after 36 years of trying, Gerry has notched up a hole in one.
It’s an achievement for which the odds are an estimated 12,500 to one even for a fully-sighted golfer – so for a blind man, it’s quite staggering.
Yet modest Gerry, who achieved the feat on the 12th hole at Montrose Links in Angus with a six iron, shrugs off praise and insists it’s his loyal wife Mary who should take the credit.
For it’s Mary, 70, who takes him to play, directs his aim on each shot, and spots where each ball lands on the course.
Gerry, from Troon, Ayrshire, explained: “We walk on to the tee and I have the club across my chest. Mary takes hold of the club and then directs me where to hit the ball.
“She then puts the club behind the ball and gives me a rough idea of the distance of the shot I’m attempting.
“Once I hit the shot, Mary spots where it lands. If I’m in a bunker, her help is really valuable as obviously I can’t tell where I’m aiming.
“When we get on to the green, Mary will tell me the rough distance to the hole and will judge the line I should putt. She then places my putter behind the ball again and I take the shot. Then we just repeat this process for all 18 holes.”
Gerry, a member of the Troon Welbeck club, finally realised his hole-in-one dream while playing in the Grampian Blind Golf Classic at Montrose course on August 2.
He teed off on the 12th – a par three of around 150 yards.
“I could feel the ball compress so knew it was a great shot.
“Looking back on it, obviously I’m very happy with the hole in one, but it was just a bonus to what was a great shot. You don’t often hit a shot like that.
“When I finished my round, I got a standing ovation in the clubhouse.”
Gerry’s blindness is caused by Stargards disease – a progressive disease of the retina – which was diagnosed in 1971.
After being registered blind in 1980, he had to medically retire from his job.
“I am not completely blind but I only have a little peripheral vision,” he said.
“I rely heavily on Mary. She is my eyes and without her I would be helpless.”
It was shortly after being registered blind and retiring from his job that Gerry found golf.
He was inspired by an article he’d read about American blind golfer Pat Browne Jr.
Pat, who lost his sight in a car accident, is the most successful blind golfer ever and was the first to record a hole in one.
Gerry said: “Pat ended up being my inspiration.”
She says she couldn’t be more proud of Gerry.
She said: “I have been guiding him for around 30 years and I am very proud of him, so are our four children and six grandchildren.
“Very few people know how difficult it was for Gerry.
“Golf gave Gerry something to put his heart into and it has been an amazing journey for him – and me as well.
“To see him get a hole in one after all these years…well, I have to say, that was a little bit special.”