It is one thing to play a course ‘blind’ in a metaphorical sense, but another altogether when the physical reality of an eye problem can threaten your entire career.
Andrew Oldcorn understands the difficulties better than most, having been afflicted with a serious eye condition for the second half of the European Senior Tour season which scuppered his hopes of ending the 2011 campaign as Number One.
Now, however, following successful surgery in October to remove a cataract in his right eye, the 51 year old Scot has a clear vision of the future, starting with the season-ending MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius. Just being able to compete again on an equal footing with his peers on the Senior Tour is a huge relief to Oldcorn, whose inability to see properly caused him to lose ground at the top of the Order of Merit.
After beginning the season with seven top ten finishes in his opening nine events, including a maiden Senior Tour title by nine strokes in The De Vere Club PGA Seniors Championship, Oldcorn was poised to contend for the John Jacobs Trophy until the onset of the cataract at The Senior Open Championship in July.
As the condition worsened over the next three months, Oldcorn finished outside the top 20 in each of the next seven events, a run which coincided with his nearest Order of Merit rivals, Peter Fowler and Barry Lane, recording nine top ten finishes between them and Lane winning twice.
While the top two will battle it out for the John Jacobs Trophy in Mauritius next month, Oldcorn is simply hoping his recovery is at a stage where he can compete again, as he looks to consolidate third place on the Order of Merit and salvage what had been a hugely promising season.
“It’s been a frustrating time because I was barely out of the top ten at the start of the season then we had the break before The Senior Open Championship and I was putting on the greens at Walton Heath and I realised I had a problem,” said Oldcorn.
“I’d had a cataract removed from my left eye in 2008 and was warned it could happen in the other eye. I thought I might be able to get through the season as I had a good chance in the Order of Merit – I was second at the time - but the deterioration became rapid.
“My swing still felt good but my vision was just not good enough. It got to the point where I could barely see in the bushes when it was dark at Woburn (at the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters).
“By the last event I played, the Benahavis Senior Masters, it was a joke. The guys on the Senior Tour are just too good to be playing against with a handicap like that. It was unbelievably dispiriting as I felt I had a genuinely good chance of topping the Order of Merit but if you look at the results Peter and Barry had when my problem happened it was obvious my chance had gone.”
Surgery on the cataract was a success and Oldcorn has been back on the fairways preparing to conclude his season in the MCB Tour Championship at Constance Belle Mare Plage from December 9-11, although he admits his vision is not yet back to normal.
“With any surgery there is an element of risk and the surgeon had my career in his hands but it has been a success,” said the three-time European Tour winner. “I’m having to adjust my lies when practising as I’m struggling a little with depth perception still but I’m going to give it a go in Mauritius.
“I’ve not been at the sharp end of the tournament for a while now because of the problem but I’m just looking forward to going there and get back playing again. I won’t be 100 per cent until February or March, and I’m looking forward to next season and having another crack at the Order of Merit.
“Up to that point where it became a problem, I was having a fantastic season so there is no reason to think I wouldn’t have been contending for the Order of Merit in Mauritius and hopefully I will be next year.”
Oldcorn will be hoping for a change in fortune not only on the course but also getting there, after weather problems prevented him from travelling to Mauritius last December.
“I had to withdraw last year because of the snow at Glasgow airport which meant we couldn’t fly,” he said. “Luckily I managed to get the last train home, otherwise I could have been stuck at the airport for four days.
“I’m looking forward, therefore, to making my debut in Mauritius and I just want to finish as high up the Order of Merit as possible. After the last few months I’ll be glad just to be there.”
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