Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Perfect Swing

This feature story was written as part of the requirements for Dr. Staurowsky's SMT 608 Sports Information and Public Relations graduate class by Kim Chiarelli


Patrick Molloy is standing 325 yards away from the first hole at a Pennsylvania golf course. He stands patient and eager at his tee, ball in place. He feels the warm sun on his back and smells the faintest scent of cut grass, a smell that would go unnoticed to the untrained nose. He takes a step that reveals soft earth beneath his feet, it rained here yesterday he says to himself. All he is waiting for is a description, a spoken description that he relies on in order to perform. Patrick Molloy is blind.

Being born blind benefited Patrick in a very important way.  He never knew the human sense that he was missing, and therefore never felt the angst and despair that someone who loses their sight later in life will most likely feel. His lack of vision has also inspired his greatest gift: being a unique model of success and triumph over stereotypes. This is a gift he never squanders.

Patrick grew up in Newtown Borough, just outside of Philadelphia, with his parents Michael and Eileen, and older sister Kaitlin. The Molloy’s decided early on that the focus for their son would be to prepare him for this sometimes unforgiving and harsh world. He would not be sheltered from everyday difficulties, but instead encouraged to adapt to and embrace challenges. His inability to see would strengthen his ability to feel, smell, hear, and most importantly speak. In essence, he would never be a victim, he would be a fighter. With that mindset, Patrick was enrolled in the public school system like so many of the other children in his neighborhood.

Patrick will tell you he enjoyed the same childhood as any other Newton Middle School or Council Rock High School North student. School would be where he was welcomed and accepted.  At the same time, however, school was also a place where he occasionally faced ignorance and misunderstanding. His youth would mainly be spent like any other kids, socializing, studying, and trying out different sports. One thing in Patrick was different though, his early connection to golf and the passion behind his game.

His grandfather was responsible for introducing Patrick to the game.  As time went by, the two would share an abiding appreciation for what devotees refer to as “a good walk unspoiled”.  Patrick recalled, “Every Sunday he (grandfather) would play a round and then head straight to my house so he could enjoy the paper crossword puzzles with dad.” Young Patrick would sit and listen as his two favorite men spoke of golf, told stories, and shared memories. This early introduction cultivated in him a love and respect for golf. Now all Patrick needed was a club.

The Molloy’s often visited the New Jersey shores during the summer months, and one night in particular sparked the beginning of something wonderful. It was a simple game of put-put, and Patrick was excited to take part. As he stood, club in hand, his dad stepped behind him and with the gentle hands of a caring father, guided Patrick’s first hit. His stroke was fluid and natural: as if it were something he was born to do.

Not long after that, his interest in golf took flight, and he was enrolled in a golf program hosted by the Middle Atlantic Junior Blind Golf Association. The league provided blind athletes with clubs as well as a PGA professional instructor in their area. Patrick was assigned PGA professional, Dave Smith. Together, they started a journey at the First Tee of Philadelphia, located at Walnut Lane Golf Club, that neither one of them had ever imagined possible. They each approached their new partnership with open minds, and together they would create memorable moments and enough experiences to last a lifetime.

Because Patrick is so in touch with his own physical presence, his swings, short or long, mimic that of a seasoned professional golfer. His rotational force starting from his back shoulder, through the point of impact, to his right shoulder is true testament to the power of repetition and the abilities of those who take the time to hone their skill.

When asked what the hardest part of golf for him was, he observed that it had nothing to do with his own inability to view the course and scope things out for himself.  Instead, he touched on the mental strength that it takes for any golfer to be consistent and rise above the bad hits.  His advice to any kid, blind or not blind is “you can do it. Everything good in life will take time and hard work, but if you want it then you can do it.”

Too humble to give me an exact number, he also revealed that he has won multiple Middle Atlantic Junior Blind Golf Association championships. In 2011 he was named the First Tee & Royal Bank of Scotland Achiever of the Year, from which he received a $10,000 scholarship. Then in 2013 he was asked to be a guest speaker at the Achievers of the Year banquet. Patrick’s accomplishments have already landed him encounters with Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour, as well as former president George W. Bush.

Currently, Patrick is a senior at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is a dual major in political science and Spanish. His hope is to one day work in immigration, while his overall goal is to help people in any way that he can. He also continues to work on his golf game with Dave Smith, and in conjunction with the Middle Atlantic Blind Golfers Association.

Patrick finally hears it, “200 yard drive… there is a large tree to the left and sand pit to the right. The fairway curves slightly right and there is a hill before the green.” Dave places Patrick’s driver in front of the ball and faces him in the right direction. Patrick hits a 187 yard drive that lands just outside of the green and nestles into the fairway. Stepping back from the broken tee, he smiles.


Kim Chiarelli is currently receiving a Masters in Sport Management at Drexel University while also working in the University’s athletics department as an assistant sports information director. She was an athlete at Drexel and has been a loyal Dragon for seven years.

1 comment:

  1. A very well written and inspiring story! Thanks for sharing.