From The Carry Row to Tokyo
The Blind golfer from Ballymena opens up about his hardships and triumphs ahead of book launch He was ranked 12th in the world blind golf ratings
After going blind at the age of 39 and spiralling into depression, a Ballymena man thought his life was over until he found blind golfing.
Now 78, Drew Cochrane is set to release his autobiography detailing his diagnosis, the subsequent depression, and most importantly, how his sight loss opened up a world of opportunities.
And he is very excited to inform others about the sport. “I wanted to show people that there is life after blindness, a great life. Blind golf saved my life.” Drew said. “I would love to see more people playing blind golf. There are people who could play and want to play, but they don’t play.”
“It’s all there for the taking. I took to it like a duck to water but not everyone is the same. Some people are apprehensive. In the beginning, I was a bit embarrassed at the thought that people would watch me with my guide on the green, but after a while, you get used to it. The benefits of it are amazing.”
One of six siblings, the golfer was diagnosed with Leber’s Optic Atrophy – an inherited eye condition. The condition passed on through his mother also effected Drew’s brother Ian, who passed away in 2004.
Drew spent five weeks at the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1980 before he was told the devastating news that he would lose his sight. The former construction worker spoke of how he “didn’t take the news well” despite wife Dympna’s best efforts. He added: “I was very depressed. Within a few short months my vision was gone. Dympna looked after me as best she could but I was in a very bad place.
“My life had fallen apart. It was gone, I couldn’t drive.
“I was in the building trade. I remember I was working on the mixer one day, because I wasn’t able to do anything else, and I couldn’t stop the tears. I asked myself, ‘what has this come to?’ The tears just wouldn’t stop.” Despite trying to maintain his job for months, Drew had no choice but to stop working and start claiming benefits. Then his troubles worsened because now he had to deal with financial hardship as well.
Drew recalled: “I had to sign on and went from previously earning good money to surviving on the bare minimum. I was in the depths of depression. I remember going to my garage and crying and was suicidal at one stage. I even had a plan to do it but thankfully it never came to it.”
Drew was a keen golf player before losing his sight and it took 10 years for him to pick up a club again. Thankfully a friend introduced him to blind golf and now he plays in tournaments around the world. And he has earned several high-profile titles along the way.
As well as winning the Order of Merit in the Garvin Classic tournament and earning a place in the Australian Western Open where he ranked in seventh place – Drew was also ranked 12th in blind golf worldwide.
‘From The Carry Row to Tokyo’ book cover
Known affectionately as the “Blind-Golfer” Drew never imagined his story would interest anyone until friend Una Mulgrew, encouraged him to pen his memoirs.
With help from Brid McKernon from Multi-Media Heritage, the three compiled his autobiography ‘ From The Carry Row to Tokyo’. Excited about the upcoming launch Drew said: “I am so happy to have it in my hands.
“Ian gave me strength after I became blind. We were great buddies and he was a great help to me. He would be very proud of what I’m doing today. This book is a tribute to my three brothers and my sister.”
‘ From The Carry Row to Tokyo’ will launch on March 25 at The Braid, Ballymena Town Hall, Museum and Arts Centre.