FLYEfit drive mum’s vision of winning World Blind Golf Championships

A Dundrum mum who has set her sights on winning the World Blind Golf Championships has become an inspiration to the members at FLYEfit Dundrum who are backing her drive to achieve the feat before her 50th birthday next year.

Carol Brill has been visually impaired since she was 11 years of age but only discovered her remarkable talent as a blind golfer after trying out the sport as a way of getting fit so that she could keep up with her then six year old daughter Sara.

Four years on, Carol has succeeded in winning the 2017 Irish Open and has qualified to represent Ireland at the 2018 World Blind Golf Championships in Rome this October where she is determined to become Ireland’s first ever world champion in the sport.

Carol was first diagnosed with Usher Syndrome as a 21 year old. The genetic disease is incurable and causes the gradual loss of hearing and sight. It has already reduced her vision to the size of a finger print, restricting her physical mobility and fitness.

“The diagnosis put me into fifth gear. When I found out I hit full throttle, taking on parachute jumps, tandem cycling and hiking through Nepal. I just loved being physically active and fit, but then the middle years set in and the demands of family life took over,” said Carol.

“Sara was in first class at school when I started looking for something to get back to being physically active. I’d been there and done that with tandem cycling and hiking and wanted to find something new. Next on the list was golf. I didn’t like the sport and thought it was for older people. How wrong I was,” she recalled.

With the help of a sighted guide to tell her the distance to the pin, to describe her environment and target areas and to guide her to her ball, Carol was quick to make an impact on the sport. Last year she became the first Irish lady to play in the ISPS Handa Irish Blind Golf Open where she beat the reigning World Ladies Champion by 15 strokes to not only win the Ladies Category, but to achieve the highest net score of all golfers, male and female.

That win raised the bar on her ambition and with that came a new challenge – finding a gym where she could train to achieve and maintain the standard of physical fitness required to be competitive at the highest level of world blind golf.

“Going to the gym is extremely challenging for someone with my condition. My vision doesn’t allow me to move around the gym easily or to see the equipment independently. The floors are black, the machinery is black. Trying to see the buttons on the exercise machines is extremely stressful and physically exhausting,” Carol explained.

Carol paid a trainer to accompany and assist her at the gym but the expense and organisation required soon forced her to throw in the towel. That decision came to the attention of FLYEfit Head of High Performance, Ben Kelly, who resolved to do something to get Carol back into gym training and back on track to becoming a world champion.

“Ben has taken the stress and challenges of training in the gym away from me. His support has been a massive help. He manages the visual aspect, helping me to find and use the equipment and to focus on a training plan that he has specially prepared to improve my cardio, core strength and golf swing,” said Carol.

“The response from FLYEfit is so positive and it has really had a big impact on my game. The difference in my swing is amazing and my guide has told me that I am getting a lot more distance out of my drives. I have been working with Ben once a week but the plan now is to step that up to two sessions a week,” she added.

“I have the mental endurance to succeed, it’s just the physical side that has to catch up. The two work together. Physical exercise has such an important part to play when it comes to positive mental health and I would encourage everyone to look at what they can do to enjoy physical exercise,” Carol continued.

Carol is looking forward to a busy schedule of competition in the run up to the World Blind Golf Championships, including the Celtic Cup between Ireland and Scotland in May, the ISPS Handa British Blind Golf Open Championships in Edinburgh in June and the ISPS Handa Italian Blind Golf Championships in September.

“My goal is to win the World Blind Championships in October. It is my first time to compete in the championships and my mind-set is to win. I’m not going all the way over there to come away with nothing. People tell me that I have to slow down and pace myself, but I know what I want and I want to hit that target before I hit 50 next year,” said Carol.