Billy McAllister lines up a shot with his guide
Billy McAllister admits he probably wouldn’t be around today if it hadn’t been for golf.
McAllister’s world fell apart in 2009 when he woke up one morning completely blind.
Within months he had lost his job, seen his marriage fall apart and was so depressed that he felt there was no reason to continue living.
Taking up golf dragged him out of his pit of despair and seven years on the 47-year-old from Brighton is one of the best blind golfers on the planet.
McAllister has won every domestic trophy there is and recently finished third at the World Championships in Japan.
“I went to bed and everything was fine. I got up the next morning to go to work and both retinas had come off in my sleep.
“I got divorced and lost my job. I wasn’t in a good place. I had to fight on my own two feet and I was going under to be honest.
“I wanted to get into a sport but my choice was quite limited. I thought golf couldn’t be that difficult as the ball doesn’t move but I was very wrong as it’s the most technical sport to play.
McAllister had previously competed at a semi-pro level at snooker but had never picked up a golf club in his life before losing his sight as a result of diabetes.
His early attempts did not offer much hope but he refused to throw the towel in and has risen from 91st to fifth in the world rankings over the last five years.
He is the first person to ever win the British Order of Merit two years in a row (2015 and 2016) and headed to Japan with high hopes of becoming world champion only to be let down by a poor opening round.
McAllister was playing catch-up after carding a 120 at Shinrin-Koen before recovering to shoot a 105 in the second round to finish behind world No.1 Zohar Sharon of Israel and Andrea Calcaterra of Italy in the totally blind category.
“When I first started I used to miss the ball completely,” added McAllister who is coached by Ryan Fenwick at West Hove. “I was shooting scores in excess of 160. I was awful.
“I finished dead last in every event I played in for the first year and a half. It took me two and a half years to win my first event. Now I’ve won all the major trophies in this country and played in the blind Ryder Cup.
“When I was coming last in every event I vowed that one day I would be world champion. That is why I was slightly disappointed to come third but the next one is in Italy in 2018 and it is my goal to win there.”
Life has improved for McAllister off the golf course as well having slowly rebuilt his life since that fateful night seven years ago.
“My depression is better and a lot of that is thanks to golf – but now I am obsessed with golf!” he said. “I’m up at 8am and am on my own in the house in darkness for seven or eight hours so it is good to get out on the golf course and stimulate my mind.
“I’ve remarried this year and my new wife Sandy is going to start being my guide which is great.
“I’ve been to America, Milan and Japan to play golf which is more travelling than I would have done if I had a normal life. I’m off to Canada to play in the Ryder Cup in July and then going to Australia to defend the Australian Open title I won last year.”