Furber reclaims love of golf: Passion rekindled since losing sight
Guide Ron Oliver watches as Darcy Furber putts at Kildonan Park Golf Course on Main Street in Winnipeg, earlier this month.
Darcy Furber thought he was done playing golf for good.
It’s not that he didn’t enjoy playing anymore, but with his deteriorating sight, Furber believed he was becoming an inconvenience on his playing partners.
That’s why he chose to walk away from the game he had loved since the age of 14.
“I always loved golf and played lots of golf. It was a heavy passion in the 80s and the 90s,” said Furber, who grew up playing at Elmhurst Golf and Country Club. “I was a scratch (player) back in the day. I made seven Manitoba teams, won the Manitoba match play and was a five-time Manitoba interclub champion.
“But I stopped playing for about 17 years, because I had no way to go. I couldn’t drive anymore and I needed a coach. I felt rushed because I was ruining their game. I never thought about playing. I was done with golf.”
It wasn’t just a passion for golf, as Furber became one of the best players in the province at his age group and ultimately earned a scholarship to attend the University of Southern Mississippi – where one of his teammates (and roommate) was fellow Manitoban Glen Hnatiuk.
Hnatiuk went on to play on the PGA Tour, while Furber’s golf career took a different turn as retinitis pigmentosa set in.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic disorder of the eyes that causes a loss of vision and symptoms include trouble seeing at night and decreased peripheral vision.
Darcy (B2), Joe (B1) and younger brother Leonard (B3) all have it to varying degrees, though their sister Fran has not been affected by the disorder.
“It runs in the family and slowly, but surely it’s been getting worse,” said Darcy Furber. “I knew that I couldn’t see (fully) at night when I was 16 or 17. I could always see during the day, but I can’t see anything now. It’s like looking through fog.”
But after temporarily retiring his clubs, Furber followed the lead of his brother Joe, who started playing in blind golf tournaments.
“It’s wonderful because I know how much he loves to play golf and I knew how much he enjoyed competitive golf,” said Joe Furber, who started playing blind golf in 2011 and now competes in the B1 category. “It’s spectacular.”
Darcy Furber started playing blind golf in 2014 and success quickly followed, as he captured the Manitoba Blind Open B2 championship in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Furber must trust his coach to help him with his alignment and with describing what type of shot he’s facing.
“You have to have a general idea of what you’re trying to do,” said Furber. “You can’t stand there with no picture.”
Darcy Furber stopped playing golf again in 2018, only this time it wasn’t by choice.
A trip to the doctor led to the conclusion that Furber had prostate cancer.
“When the doctor told me, that was a real reality check,” said Furber. “So many people get cancer and you don’t know what it’s like until you actually live it. I don’t want to say it was scary, but it was 24 hours of thinking about it. I had surgery last June 7.
“The scariest part was the unknown. Its no fun and I don’t wish that on anybody. It was the longest year of my life. Last year was the longest year of my life. I don’t want to say that it changed my life, but it really makes you appreciate it. I get up every day and you’re happy to be up. I’m a survivor.”
Treatments went well and these days, Furber is feeling healthy.
He’s also feeling thankful to be back out on the course, hitting shots and chasing birdies.
“I’m hoping it’s behind me and you go from there,” said Furber, who worked for Winnipeg School Division as an educational assistant with behavioural/special needs students for 20 years before he retired in 2005. “I hope I’ve got a few years left.”
Earlier this month, Furber captured his fifth Manitoba Blind Open B2 sight category championship at Kildonan Park Golf Course.
He also participated in the Vision Cup with brother Joe as part of Team North America (which included six Canadians and six Americans) at Portmarnock Links Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland.
It was the second time Darcy and Joe have played for Team North America in the Ryder Cup style matches, the other coming in 2017 in Creston, B.C.
Getting out on the links is once again enjoyable for Furber and he doesn’t plan to stop playing anytime soon.