A blind golfer's big win

The first time I met Patrick Molloy, I was told to look for the 16-year-old with a swing like Phil Mickelson.

When I pulled up to the Walnut Lane Golf Club to watch Patrick take a lesson, he was indeed in gorgeous form, sinking 12-foot putts, I wrote in a 2009 column.

Molloy, 16, is a sophomore at Council Rock High School. Unlike Mickelson, Molloy is blind.

Club pro Dave Smith explained how he learned to teach his most unique student after Patrick came to him seven years earlier through the Mid-Atlantic Blind Golf Association.

"You don't need to see the ball to hit it," Smith figured. So the golf pro set up two-by-fours to create a "lane" where Molloy could perfect his alignment. Squeezing a rubber ball between his arms helped the young player determine how far apart to keep them for each swing.

Like any student, he learns by trial and error, I wrote. Where did your follow-through end when you hooked the ball to the left? How did you position your hands when you drove it high and straight?

"It's all muscle memory," Molloy explained. "My body remembers the positions."

Since then, Molloy has worked closely with Smith, the MABGA and The First Tee, a national nonprofit whose mission is to introduce golf, and its "life-enhancing values," to children who wouldn't otherwise be exposed to the game. In short order, Smith had 600 kids in the group's Philadelphia chapter.

Last week, Molloy rushed from graduation at Council Rock North High School to Washington D.C., where he received one of a $10,000 scholarships for being one of the First Tee's two "Achievers of the Year."

Yesterday, the busy 18-year-old told me he hopes to get back on the links after a busy spring. But he'll put the money toward books, not balls. This fall, the Bucks County native begins pre-law studies at Muhlenberg College. He's told he's their "first blind student in a long time." 

-- Monica Yant Kinney


(read more at philly.com/blinq)