By: Susan Marshall
The annual Visually Impaired Putters (VIP) Tournament is a recreational therapy event designed for blind or low vision Veterans, their family members and friends. The tournament was originated by a legally blind Veteran, Jay Marshall, who was an avid golfer prior to losing his sight. Before receiving blind rehabilitation therapy through the VA he thought his golfing days were over until he learned that not only could he continue to golf but there were many other activities and sports he could continue to enjoy through adaptive techniques and sighted assistance.
The first VIP Tournament in Las Vegas was held at the Aliante Golf Club in North Las Vegas in 2013 and included blind and low vision Veterans, their family members and friends. To level the playing field, sighted players were provided blindfolds or vision loss simulator glasses and a sighted guide. Sighted guide assistance for all players was provided by the Wounded Warriors of Las Vegas, Volunteers, Blind Rehabilitation, Occupational Therapy and Optometry staff of the Veterans Affairs Southern Nevada Healthcare System.
The VIP Tournament provides Veterans with an opportunity to participate in a therapeutic adaptive sporting activity which demonstrates that having a visual impairment or physical disability need not be an obstacle to an active and rewarding life. This local event and similar events across the country provide an opportunity for the Veterans to develop or hone existing skills through adaptive techniques. As one golfer stated, “It’s all about attitude”. “You may have limitations, but your attitude is more limiting than any disability”. Getting up and doing something is the hard part and the VIP Tournament makes it a whole lot easier.