Danville Man is U.S. Blind Golfing Champ

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LEWISBURG  -- A man from Danville is the best of the best when it comes to a sport he grew up playing, but because of his vision, it's a sport he didn't think he would ever play competitively again.

Tommy Marks took some practice swings Friday at the driving range at Bucknell University's golf course in Lewisburg as his dad and coach Bob helped.

Not that he needs to practice. At age 36, Tommy Marks was just named the United States Blind Golf Champion at a tournament last weekend in Florida. It's the second straight year he's won.

"I had a three-shot lead after the first day, and then the second day, I played a little bit better and I ended up winning by 13 shots," said Marks.

Tommy has been playing golf since he was 11. He played competitively in high school and college. But when he was 21, he had a hard time reading the board in class.

"I kept going to my eye doctor and wanted to get re-prescribed, 'my contacts aren't working, what is it?'" he recalled.

Tommy was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease when he was 21. It left him with only his peripheral vision.

Stargart's disease made competitive golf nearly impossible.

"I hit my first tee shot and I couldn't find the ball. So it was that day I realized I would never really be able to play golf by myself again."

But nearly impossible does not mean impossible. And that's where dad comes in.

A few years ago Tommy started playing blind golf and Bob became his coach.

"Line him up, find the ball, line up his putts, see if he's got his driver and some of his other clubs square to the ball," said Bob Marks.

Bob is basically Tommy's eyes during the game.

"I enjoy watching him enjoy the game of golf again," Bob said.

"As a visually impaired golfer, it feels great," Tommy said. "It's nice. It's a testament to my family that brought me up in the game and I enjoy it and I love competitive golf."

Next month, Tommy will represent the United States in Japan at the World Blind Golf Tournament.