A blind veteran from Norfolk is being supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, to compete in the World Blind Golf Championships in South Africa.
Danny Daniels, who is 85 and from Swaffham in Norfolk, will travel to Cape Town later this month to represent England and Wales at the six-day competition which tees off on 26 March.
“I qualified for the World Blind Golf Championships just before Covid struck so I’ve been waiting three years for this trip. I’ll be playing against many other players from around the world.
“I love sport and I’ve always been determined, as a ten-year-old I wanted to play football for England. I’ve had a lot of success in golf over the past four years. Last year I won the order of merit for the over 65s and came second in the overall order of merit for England and Wales Blind Golf.
“I’m going to South Africa believing I can win. I will be flying back to England with the trophy in my pocket.”
Called up for National Service in 1955, Danny signed up for a full career with the Royal Air Force and served for 22 years. His career took him around the world from the beautiful weather of Hong Kong and Gibraltar to the freezing extremes of the Arctic Circle.
“One of my most memorable moments with the RAF was being sent to Goose Bay in the very north of Canada which was inside the Arctic Circle. I was working as an aircraft servicing chief at the time and went to coordinate the servicing of the Hercules fleet. The blizzards were intense and if you didn’t obey the rules, you could have been lost permanently.
“They never seemed to send me to hot countries to service aircraft! But on exercises, I did get to visit Cyprus many times and Gibraltar. Every night in Gibraltar we’d walk across the border which had been closed to vehicles and drink sherry.”
Danny was 40 years old when he left the RAF and joined civilian life at an engineering company in Thetford where he worked for 24 years until his retirement.
It was in 2009 that Danny first noticed his eyesight was failing and it was discovered Danny had macular degeneration, an age-related degenerative eye disease.
“My sight went downhill quickly and by 2011 macular had done its worst and I was registered as blind.
“I’m now completely blind in my left eye and I have around 5% vision remaining in the right eye.
“I was devastated when I found out and depressed for a long while. I’d lost my independence and felt that my life was going to be miserable due to having to be totally reliant on others even to make a sandwich. I did start to think that I couldn’t go on like that.
“I stopped playing golf which I’d taken up as a hobby seven years earlier and it was dangerous to even do the gardening. I felt really isolated at that time.”
Danny had a visit from social services and was given information on organisations that could help. One of these organisations provided Danny with a magnifier for reading letters and told him about Blind Veterans UK.
“It was arranged for me to visit the charity’s Centre of Wellbeing in Brighton and it was while I was there that the penny dropped; I realised my life was not over and I could still do things.
“I spent a great week at the centre and came away with a new mentality – you can do it if you want to.
“I was determined to put my life back together again and excited to get back on the golf course.”
Danny now plays golf twice a week and is a member of the England and Wales Blind Golf Organisation.
“Blind golfers have challenges to overcome, when I look down at the ball, I can’t see the shape. It is as if I am looking at a ball of fluffy cotton wool.
“Therefore, we have three rule changes, we can ground our clubs in all hazards including sand, a club can be placed on the ground to line us up so we know we’re hitting the right way and a guide is allowed to stand directly behind us. Other than that we play by the same rules and with the same equipment as Tiger Woods.
“All of the help and support I’ve had from Blind Veterans UK and from the England and Wales Blind Golf Organisation has helped me to believe in myself. The ‘can do’ attitude Blind Veterans UK has instilled in me, has led me to where I am now and I couldn’t be more grateful.
“Hearing from other blind veterans about what they had achieved really spurred me on. It may sound silly but when I first joined Blind Veterans UK, I was given a chopping board to help me cook safely and now whenever I look at that chopping board, I say to myself ‘you can do it if you want to’.”
Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans across the country but knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss.
If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and are now struggling with sight loss, then please get in touch. Call 0800 389 7979 or visit: blindveterans.org.uk/support.