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Visually impaired golfer ready for first national tournament

Nipigon’s Hayden Foulds is heading to Kimberley, B.C. for the Canadian Blind Golf Open Championships, which gets underway Monday.

THUNDER BAY – As the COVID-19 pandemic was in its initial stages, Nipigon’s Hayden Foulds was in a bad place.

Having been born blind in his left eye, Hayden lost complete vision during the summer of 2020 and was left to wonder what was next.

“I was at the lowest point of my life and I was thinking that things would never really get better,” Hayden said.

A couple of years later, his family and friends suggested that he play golf again, which is something that he had been doing since he was 10 years old.

“I was kind of on the fence about it as I wasn’t really sure how it would go. I think I surprised myself and some others by how quickly I was able to get back in the process of playing golf again,” Hayden said.

“I don’t know if I’m necessarily better than I was before, but I do feel a lot more confident.”

Now the 23-year-old, who recently graduated from Confederation College with a business human resources diploma, is set to tackle a new challenge.

Hayden is travelling with his father David, his mother Shelley and his sister Dayna to Kimberley, B.C. to compete in the International Sports Promotion Society HANDA Canadian Blind Golf Open Championship at the Bootleg Gap Golf facility.

The two-day tournament gets underway Monday.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Hayden said during a practice session at the Northern Lights Golf Complex on Friday.

“I’m kind of nervous but it’ll be good to put myself up against some competition and see where I’m at.

“Obviously I want to shoot the lowest score possible, but with this being my first tournament, I think I’m just excited about the experience and the opportunity to meet new people.”

Hayden will be joined by his dad on the course. David will be his sighted guide who assists with things such as gauging the distances for each shot and making sure that Hayden is lined up perfectly before he takes a swing.

“He’ll make the final decision on what club he wants to hit,” David said. “My main goal is to just set him up and see where he’s hitting the ball that day.

“If he’s hitting behind the ball or ahead of the ball, then we’ll make adjustments. I just try to set him up and let him do this thing.”

Jamie DePiero has been coaching Hayden for the last two years and has been impressed by the strides he’s made.

“After our first lesson, we just clicked right away,” DePiero said.

“Hayden’s got a great sense of humour and he’s very talented. He’s very in tune with his body and a lot of the stuff that I teach he’s able to apply right away.”

DePiero has to do a few things differently when he coaches Hayden, especially in terms of setting up the ball and helping him get a sense of what he’s facing on the green when he’s about to make a putt, but a lot of his work is pretty similar to what he does on a regular basis.

“I’ve actually applied a lot of things that I’ve worked on with Hayden to my regular clients,” DePiero said.

“He’s super inspiring and working with him has also been very humbling. I think a lot of us take the simple things in life for granted and Hayden’s got a great perspective on everything. He just keeps pushing through his challenges and he doesn’t let it hold him back.

“We can all learn a lot from that.”

As Hayden prepares for his toughest golfing challenge to date, he hopes that he can be an inspiration to other visually impaired people who want to chase their goals.

“If I can help one person, I think that’s special,” Hayden added.