Eyes on the ball

Dave Hoyt (left) who is legally blind, doesn’t let his affliction prevent him from hitting the links with the likes of his brother, Jim, who has turned out to be the ultimate caddy for his big brother. Photo / Per Peterson

Dave Hoyt is legally blind, but thanks to his brother and some other special caddies, he’s able to continue hitting the links

By Per Peterson

Dave Hoyt isn’t waiting around for the day to come when his eyesight will be fully restored. He’s living his life, as a hard-working business owner of Hoyt Oil & Convenience in Walnut Grove, and as a golfer.

“It’s gotten worse — I used to ride bike and deliver papers,” he said. “I used to even play cards.”

How does a legally blind person play cards?

“My sister knew someone that was blind and used braille cards, so she got a deck and brought it to Christmas, and we were going to Fulda to my wife’s side of my family, so I memorized the deck of cards on the way there … and played cards that day.”

Dave was born with a genetic condition that severely affects his optic nerves, leaving him legally blind.

“Basically, there’s no way to put two nerves together,” he said. “They say they will be able to eventually. It’s not fixable yet.”

It may not be fixable, but Dave isn’t letting his affliction stop him from living his life. And that life — outside of running his business with his wife, Wanda —  includes hitting the links.

Dave and his brother, Jim, are regulars at Rolling Hills Golf Club just outside of Westbrook. You could call Jim the ultimate caddy, as he helps his brother line up his shots, from tee to green. Dave can differentiate light and dark, but can’t see color or objects.

“When he tees up the ball, he cannot see the ball,” Jim said. “If he knocks it off, I’ve gotta tell him to put it back on the tee. We usually tee him off about 150 yards out, on the par 5s about 200. He tees the ball up and I just tell him whether he needs to move more right or left with his feet, and then close or open the club.”

Essentially, Jim is there to get his big brother lined up for each shot.

“I watch the ball, we go find it and he hits it again,” Jim said.

Dave, whose other golfing helpers include friends Bruce Maas and Jeff Farber, doesn’t take a full backswing, so his drives don’t go very far; his average shot off the tee is about 120 yards. But his lack of distance doesn’t deter him from enjoying his time on the links.

“He hits a lot of good drives,” said Jim. “He exaggerates when he says he doesn’t hit it very well. He beats me quite a bit, but we have a lot of fun.”

On the green, Dave tries to get a feel for each putt by walking the green. That way, he can tell if he has a downhill lie, and he can get a sense for the slope of the green and which way the ball will break.

“I walk from the ball to the pin,” he said. “I can feel the slope, then I tell him I want it this far from the cup.”

“He gives me the read and I set him up according to what he tells me,” Jim said.

Jim uses his knowledge of the greens at Rolling Hills to help Dave judge his putts.

“Sometimes I’m wrong,” Jim joked.

Dave, who used to play softball and bowl in his younger days, said his putting is a strong part of his game, even though he cannot see the hole.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.