Swinging on fore-sight

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Zohar Sharon would like to issue a challenge to Tiger Woods -- with just one provision.

He wants Woods to wear a blindfold when they play a round of golf.

"Either that, or we play at midnight," joked the world- champion blind golfer, who wasn't entirely joking. "I think that would even things out."

In a sporting world consumed with the Barry Bondses, the Pacman Joneses, the Mark Bells, here is an astounding man, an athlete who defies any and all logic.

Sharon cannot see. He doesn't hear very well. He didn't play a round of golf until seven years ago, long after he had lost his sight in a parachuting mission in Lebanon. He comes from Israel, a country with one -- count 'em, one -- golf course. And he has chosen the most difficult of all games to play, without any aid of vision.

In the 1976 explosion that cost him his sight in his right eye and shattered his left shoulder, he also lost his ability to converse in English. Three years later, he lost the sight in his left eye.

"Before that, I was fluent in English," he said through an interpreter, his caddie, coach and lifelong friend, Shimshon Levy. "Now, I can understand English. I can't speak it. It's one of the things I can't explain. I can't explain a lot of things that have happened to me."

He can't explain how it is he hits his drives pencil straight and close to 200 yards on average and almost effortlessly. He can't explain how he has soft touch on the greens.

"Putting isn't hard," he said, this time with his daughter interpreting. "Brushing my teeth, that's hard."

TOLD OF BEAUTY

Yesterday, the 50-year-old had to be told about the beauty of Maple Downs, the country club that hosted him for a morning round of golf. The day before, there was no complaining about Angus Glen, either, playing in the charity tournament for Beit Halochem, the Canadian organization which provides aid to disabled war veterans in Israel.

Of the nine holes he played yesterday at Maple, he ended up with three pars and four bogeys. The rest of us should be so lucky.

This is how it works for Zohar Sharon: His caddie lines up the club at the ball, aligns the club, and then has Sharon grip it. The swing is all Sharon.

In his previous trip to this same golf course, he had an eagle. Yesterday, on the par-3 second hole, he hit his drive to within birdie distance.

In the first of his two world championships, he shot 99 and 100 and won by 21 strokes. His best round is an 82. He also has, to his credit, one hole in one. And never, accompanied as always by his seeing eye dog, Dylan, does he stop smiling.

Why take up golf, he was asked?

"I really want to drive a car, but they won't let me," he said in complete seriousness. "There are other things I'd like to do also that I can't. So what other options do I have? I have weaving, but I don't want to weave. So I started golfing and I love it."

This is how much he loves it: Practice usually begins at 6 a.m., and goes until 11. It resumes at 4 p.m., and continues until 8:30 at night.

"A lot of days, Shimshon is knocking at my door in the middle of the night saying it's time to go," he said.

"Shimshon is my eyes. He's the best caddie in the world. Tiger pays millions for his caddie. I pay him $10,000 a year. I have a better one."

The game, despite how it looks now, didn't come easily.

"For the first year and a half, I just wanted to hit something," Sharon said. "Everything about doing this is hard. I was consumed by the challenge of it. It's tough, but it makes me happy."

On most days, it's happy also for Levy. Just not all days. More times than he cares to remember, Levy has set the ball, set the club, handed the club to Sharon and been whacked in the backswing.

How many times have you been hit, he was asked?

"Too many," he answered and he smiled with pride. You can't help but feel that watching Zohar Sharon, making the impossible look easy.

How do you know you've hit a good shot? he was asked. "By Shimshon's reaction. If he's happy, I'm happy. "


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