Blind athlete has conquered two sports – now she’s looking to conquer the fairways

Imagine learning you’ll become blind.

Aspired your whole life to be a GP, and then having to retire at 41 due to sight loss.

This would be a loss beyond comprehension for most people, but for Amanda Large this was reality.

Amanda found out at 31 she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a group of rare genetic eye diseases that affect the retina, the light layer behind the eye.

RP makes those cells slowly breakdown over time which results in diminishing sight loss until completely blind.

This diagnosis was unexpected.

“Initially it was quite a scary thought to lose my sight,” said Amanda.

“I never thought I’d ever lose my vision.”

But while a huge life-changing blow like that would knock most people down, Amanda has not only come to terms with it, but learned to enjoy and get the most out of life – primarily by doing as much sport as possible.

“I used to play hockey and lacrosse when I was younger and I’ve played tennis all my life, so sport was the obvious step in my sight loss journey,” she explained.

Amanda’s journey through visually impaired sport has been a big success.

“I took up cricket and managed to make it to international level, took up tennis – and the same happened with that,” she said.

“I’m actually aging now … and that’s why I started thinking about taking up golf.”

Golf is one of the few sports in which individuals who are partially sighted, blind and fully sighted can play as equals – and that is what led one of Amanda’s guides, Jane, to make the suggestion.

“Me and Jane have been friends for 22 years, since our children were both very little,” said Amanda.

“We have always wanted to do something and learn something together, so together we started to learn golf and practice together.”

Jane acts as Amanda’s eyes on the course. She describes how the ball is sitting and if the ball is on the green and helps line up the putt.

Amanda’s husband and daughter also acts as her guide on the course – and she’s clearly a dab-hand at the sport for her rise through the golfing world has been rapid.

“I got involved with England and Wales blind golf last year,” said Amanda.

“I found out about the charity that runs many of the competitions around the country and I was lucky enough to win the British Open last July.”

Modest to a tee, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Her success at domestic level led to an international call-up to represent England – although that’s nothing particularly new for her because she’s already experienced that in other sports.

“I’m lucky to have already represented England in cricket and tennis,” Amanda said.

“I had international experience going to Barbados for cricket and Spain for tennis, so luckily I feel a little more prepared for the pressures of representing a country or a continent.”

The golf call-up isn’t the end of the road for Amanda.

Her next aim is to make it to the World Championships. They happen every two years and who plays is decided by an order of merit, based on a player’s results over the course of a season.

But the level of competition is always improving, says Amanda.

“We have some amazing new blind golfers coming in this season,” she added. “So the battle is on in regards to the order of merit and hopefully get my handicap down to single figures.”

Whether she makes it to the World Championships or not, few would argue with the fact that Amada Large is already very much a winner.