Blind cyclists play golf at Spring Valley

REED CITY — Bill Lapp lined the club with his ball at Spring Valley Golf Course’s driving range on Thursday morning. He swung and connected nicely, sending the ball way down the range. He did that several other times.

“Wow,” said a Spring Lake volunteer. “You’re hitting better than some of our members. You just hit one more than 100 yards.”

“Seriously?” Lapp, who indicated it was his first experience with a golf club, replied.

It was indeed an impressive moment for Lapp, considering he is legally blind. He and several other blind individuals made a Thursday stop at the course as part of an outing for Michigan Conference Blind Services.

Larry Hubbell works with what is the Michigan Tandem Blind Bikers Ride which has been at the Cedar Lake Seventh Day Adventist Campgrounds. He said the event was formerly sponsored by the Christian Record Services. This year’s camp is sponsored by the Seventh Day Adventists Community Services.

“The mission office is in Lansing, but we work out of Holly,” he said. “We brought 20 blind people and others (helping out). We started out by getting to Cedar Lake. There’s a rails-to-trail there. We can go east and west. It goes all the way from Alma to Greenville. Cedar Lake is kind of in the middle of it. We bike out to an activity and then bike back to camp.”

During their venture, they were greeted by three pilots and their plane and were given plane rides.

“Sometimes, the instructor would let them take hold and say ‘you do this and you do this,’ and they flew the plane, even though they were blind,” Hubbell said. “They were never in danger because they only did what the pilot told them to.

“They’re from all over. Most are from Michigan. But we do have ones from Illinois, Arkansas, Mississippi, one from Ohio and three from West Palm Beach, Fla.”

Hubbell made arrangements with Carol Schroeder Semeyn of Spring Valley Golf Course, and her staff to bring the blind campers to the course on Thursday.

Each blind golfer was paired, Semeyn said, with an instructor to learn the basics of driving, putting and chipping. Instructors were volunteer Spring Valley members.

“We’re going to go one-on-one with the campers,” Semeyn said. “Most of them have never touched a golf club.”

Each golfer was rotated from skill to skill by golf cart. Around 20 golfers were in attendance.

After 20-minute rounds of lessons at each station the golfers had ice cream cones on the patio at Spring Valley.

The golfers were given an opportunity to share their stories about their day of golf with each other.

Semeyn recalls hosting the same group about 10 years ago.

“They come through this area every year at that camp,” Semeyn said.

“They put it together for us and we did it two times when we were biking in Reed City,” Hubbell said. “This started in Reed City at a (local park). I was driving by here a couple of months ago and thought I should stop by and see Carol.”

They decided to have the golf clinic for the blind bikers again.

Lapp and his wife, Carolyn, were up from West Palm Beach to join the Tandem Blind Bikers and were able to test their golf skills. Their home base in this area was Cedar Lake. It was their second bikers camp.

“Bill is legally blind and does amazingly well,” a group volunteer said. “He leads Carolyn wherever she needs to go. But he doesn’t drive.”

Wednesday, they went sailing in the Charlevoix area. But Thursday, it was time for fun day on the golf course.

Bill Lapp of Florida connects with the ball at Spring Valley during a clinic for blind golfers/cyclists.

Bill Lapp of Florida connects with the ball at Spring Valley during a clinic for blind golfers/cyclists.

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with Herald Review as well as the Pioneer and The Lake County Star. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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