Alphapointe teaches blind youth that sight is not necessary

Former Royals outfielder Brian McRae crouches down with Sveta Ehlers and places his hand next to hers on the putting green. Sight is not necessary to feel.

Ehlers asks McRae why the putting green feels different than real grass. She ponders his explanation for a second, before her curiosity shifts back to her putter and trying to make a hole in one.

Including Ehlers, 18 blind or visually impaired kids from ages 8 to 18 attended Alphapointe’s instructional golf clinic on Saturday at the Heart of America Golf Academy, hosted in partnership with The First Tee of Greater Kansas City.

“The ultimate goal is to spark interest and that these kids play golf regularly,” says Sharon Brown, a manager for the Alphapointe Foundation.

In just the golf clinic’s second year, it’s working.

Reinhard Mabry, president and CEO of Alphapointe, has a distinct memory that drives him to continue helping visually impaired youth.

At Alphapointe’s Summer Camp last year, a young boy said to Mabry, “I’ve been around my friends, and I’m blind, so they always leave me behind and I’m the follower. This week, I got to be the leader.”

Mabry walks around the golf course, encouraging the kids. He sees in them what that young boy saw in himself last year.

“I think for kids who are visually impaired, and dealing with disability, that confidence that their disabilities are not going to prevent them from accomplishing whatever goal they have for themselves, whatever aspiration they have,” Mabry says.

Trey and Trevor Hodges are 11-year old twins. Trey wears a lime green cast on his right hand from bruising his bone while playing on the playground, but he still sets up his own tee. Trevor stands beside him, drilling the ball out into the range. Their father, Wes, is grateful that his sons can still experience joy.

“It’s a nice getaway,” Hodges says. “It allows them to do things other kids are doing.”

Danan Hughes, a former Chiefs wide receiver and current member of Chiefs Ambassadors, is the sight coach for 10-year old Alexa Ferris. They’re on the putting green, and Hughes tells her, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about,” while shooting his fists into the air as Ferris giggles.

“I have kids as well, and it’s just fun to see kids having fun while doing something athletic,” Hughes says. “They’re going against the grain. A lot of people probably count these kids out because of their limited sight, and they just chalk up things that they are not able to do.

“And now, we’re out here, and we’re messing around with the kids, realizing, ‘Wow, they just enjoy being able to do something.’ ”

Sight is not a prerequisite for confidence.

Ferris closes her eyes and grins toward the sky with her arms open wide to feel the raindrops grace her skin. Moments later, she opens her eyes and skips over to her mother.

“I think I’m gonna go golfing with Dad.”

The kids and their sight coaches all gather on the edge of the chipping green for a group picture as the last activity of the day. But before leaving, everyone sings “Happy Birthday” to 12-year old Sarah Coccovizzo and her 9-year-old sister Terra, who participated in the event and share the same birthday.

Sight is not necessary to love.