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Athletic goal in clear focus for self-proclaimed ‘blind golfer’
LeSueur to bring skills to ETTAC golf tourney at Fox Den

After nailing three straight four-foot putts before topping off his morning workout with a 10-footer at the bottom of the cup, self-proclaimed “blind golfer” Brett LeSueur created some good-natured skepticism.

“I believe you can see some,” said Rick Hill, owner of Chapman Highway Driving Range, with a laugh after assisting LeSueur with instruction. “By gosh, that’s pretty good. You’ve improved quite a bit.”

But Hill’s job ends with instruction. LeSueur, a former standout track and field athlete at Bearden High School (Class of 1979) who lost his battle with retinitis pigmentosa four years ago and was rendered completely blind, is on his own swinging the clubs. But he’s done it with success.

“I can hit it over two-hundred-and-fifty yards on my driver. I’ve made a thirty-foot putt,” the 44-year-old LeSueur said. ‘I can hear if the ball comes off the golf club good, and that’s what blind people do a lot, we rely on our hearing. When I hit a good shot I can feel it. I make birdies, but not many.”

Eager to be out front “trying to inspire those who are handicapped,” LeSueur has taken the reigns as chair of the 2006 East Tennessee Technology Access Center’s Eighth Annual Mack French Memorial Golf Tournament at Fox Den Country Club beginning at 1 p.m., Monday, April 10. LeSueur said he’ll be among the 120 to 140 golfers expected to participate. (More about the 18-hole golf tourney later in this story).

As a teenager, “I played back in the seventies, and then when I started getting into high school, my eyesight was going away,” LeSueur said. “Then I just didn’t have any enjoyment out of it, so I quit. I just played for, like, two years.”

LeSueur, who teaches a computer class among other subjects at South-Doyle Middle School, describes retinitis pigmentosa as a “genetic eye disease. It was diagnosed when I was twelve years old, and my eyesight has just slowly deterioated and went away.”

Also an avid fisherman, LeSueur rekindled his interest in golf in May 2005 thanks to long-time friend Keith Marks, “At first I was discouraged, I didn’t think I could do it,” he said. “But ‘can’t’ is not in my vocabulary. You can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

During a recent Sunday while being assisted by 12-year-old youngest son, Matthew, during a practice session, Matthew pointed out that several people were starring at LeSueur.

“They were starring at me, but some of ’em came over and said, ‘are you blind? ... You’re really amazing, people are out here watching you and you’re hitting better than just about everybody on this golf range,” LeSueur said.

LeSueur describes his wife, Terri, as being “Like a soccer mom, but she’s a golf mom,”about taking him to various golf outings. Their oldest son, Michael, is a freshman at South-Doyle High.

LeSueur’s brother, Derrick, will be his caddie at the tournament.

The BHS grad also credits his golfing success to “very best friend” Jeff Newlin, along with Bill Faddis, a pro at the Chapman range. “Every Sunday after church [Faddis] coaches me. [Recently] I had a three-hour lesson,” he said.

“We started first with my grip and my set-up. What I do is, I feel the ball and then I put my club behind it, and then I stand there and my coach, or the person that takes me golfing, will help me get lined up. I keep my head straight and just let the club get in front of the ball. They’ll get me lined up and tell me how long it is, and I’ll pick out my own club.”

To get a read things such as wind conditions, LeSueur said he’ll have his assistant stand behind him, “To tell me what the ball does, because I’m trying to practice on a hook or fade and stuff like that.”

To assist with judging distances, “My family has bought me a range-finder,” he said.

In addition to playing in a pair of tournaments leading up to Fox Den, LeSueur said he practices, “in warmer weather, two or three times a month” in addition to his regular year-round Sunday afternoon sessions at the Chapman range “unless it’s really cold.”

“I’m getting better,” he added. “I don’t really keep score. I’m just having fun right now.”

LeSueur said that upon making his first “blind golfer” birdie, he had the ball set aside with the date enscribed. “That was at Pine Lakes [Blount County],” LeSueur said. “That’s sort of my home course.” John Burns, golf pro at Pine Lakes, “has helped me, he’s given me lessons,” LeSueur said.

Saying he regularly dresses in orange, LeSueur emphasized that he is a big University of Tennessee sports fan. “I recently got to meet Bruce Pearl [UT men’s basketball head coach] and I’ve been cutting up with him a lot.”

LeSueur said Pearl received his best sales pitch in case the Vol coach could “get involved some way” in the Fox Den tourney.

“Within an hour, coach Pearl called me on my cell phone. [and said] ‘I’ll help you any way I can.’

About a week after being honored at Gettysview Gold and Country Club last year, LeSueur said various members tried to convince him to take up golf again. “They said, ‘Brett, we’d like you to play golf,’ and I said, ‘I haven’t played golf in twenty-five years.’”

After saying he ‘thought about it for a second,’ LeSueur agreed, provided he could “do one thing.”

“If you let me drive the golf cart,’” LeSeuer added with a laugh.

Cost for the golf tourney is $500 per team, $100 per player. For more information, call 865-219-0130.


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