World No.1 Calgarian excited to have Adaptive Golf championship in Alberta

Written by Gord Montgomery

Written by Gord Montgomery

Not only is golf the game of a lifetime, it’s a game for all abilities. Driven forward by people like Todd Kierstead, the world of adaptive golf has taken huge steps forward in the past but it perhaps still has a way to go.

Kierstead, the CEO and founder of ParaGolf Canada, is all about focusing on the abilities of a group of athletes rather than their disabilities. As a trick shot artist, Kierstead began his sojourn after holding a clinic for Wounded Warriors in Florida. His audience that day included single and double limb amputees as well as those blinded during warfare. From that single outing his role in bringing adaptive golf forward has grown exponentially.

2023 All Abilities Championship / McCall Lake Golf Course in Calgary

“The word is getting out there,” he noted, particularly because of the media coverage of the 2022 U.S. Adaptive Open at Pinehurst No. 6 where two Albertans had strong finishes. Playing off that and in their continuing effort to grow the game in Alberta, Alberta Golf ran its first-ever All Abilities provincial championship in 2023. The event included golfers with physical, sensory, and intellectual disabilities.


Alberta Golf will be hosting its second All Abilities Championship in the summer of 2024, at the Broadmoor Golf Course in Sherwood Park, from August 6-8.

Said John Deneer, from Alberta Golf in an e-mail, on bringing an event like this into the public eye: “We are very excited to offer this opportunity to the All-Abilities golfing community.  We know there are many players who want to compete and giving them an Alberta Golf provincial championship is a high priority and we are excited to do so. We are working closely with the Alberta Amputee Sports & Recreation Association to ensure our championship is run to the standard expected and that all players who are eligible to play, have the opportunity.”

The 2023 Alberta All Abilities Champion was Calgary’s Kiefer Jones, whose vision was damaged after a virus attacked his optic nerve. That affected his central vision rendering him legally blind. That though hasn’t affected his golf game. Said Kierstead of the 33-year-old Calgarian: “Kiefer, based on his classification (B3) in the blind golfing world, is ranked No. 1 in the world!”

In a phone interview Jones said he began golfing when he was about 18-months old and has always had a love for the game. For several years he lived, and played in Mexico, where he honed his skills. He had hopes of heading to the University of Arizona on a scholarship like his idol, Phil Mickelson. “As a junior that was a goal for me. Then, losing my eyesight kind of changed things.”

The fun, he noted, was gone from the game but a friend talked him into helping him improve his game and from there he started playing again. “It’s not like baseball where the ball is coming at you. I realized that as long as I could be consistent in my ball striking and set-up, having someone point me in the right direction, I could still play this game,” he explained of his decision to take up golf again.

Kiefer Jones – 2023 Alberta All Abilities champion 

And as they say, the rest is history. Back in the game, Jones earned his PGA of Canada professional status despite his vision loss looking to become a teaching pro. He later reclaimed his amateur status and in 2016 he discovered the world of blind golf where he has excelled. The transition from the sighted game to visually impaired golf wasn’t that difficult, Jones noted, given the purity of his oft-repeated swing.

“My swing didn’t change,” he pointed out. “I’m not fully blind. With my vision specifically, I have no central vision so I just don’t look at the ball. I look away from the ball and then I can see the ball. But, I only see it with my peripherals. The depth perception and everything is gone.”

That issue hasn’t slowed him down however. At Pinehurst he finished T-19 overall, and first in the Vision Impaired grouping. The next closest in his category finished T-59, 38 shots behind the Albertan.

About the Pinehurst tournament which was played out over 54 holes, Jones had this to say: “My goal was to go there and finish first overall. And it was looking pretty good for about six holes …. I gave myself a birdie putt on the first hole and walked off feeling pretty good. On the next hole, from 150-yards, I left it hanging on the lip for eagle. I turned around and I had Golf Channel and about 100 people following me! This is unbelievable! For about four or five holes I had a big gallery. I was one-under par after six and leading the tournament,” before he had two tee shots go OB on seven. “I turned around and everyone was gone!” he laughingly related. As it turned out, he carded an 80, with a ’10’ and a ‘9’ that day “Two bad holes kind of cost me the tournament, in my eyes.”

At Adaptive Golf events there is really no difference between where players tee it up and where you and I start from. The courses measure the same distance and the same rules apply except for blind golfers who are granted two exceptions. They’re allowed to ground their club in a bunker and their guide can stand behind them during a swing to aid in shot direction. Other than that, it’s the game of golf, pure and simple.

As to having the public become more aware of adaptive golfers and becoming more comfortable playing alongside them, Jones noted, “Every time I play with someone they’re amazed. To me, it’s just another round of golf. To them, it’s (maybe) the first time they’re seeing someone who’s visually impaired.”

Kiefer Jones

And yes, they likely do have a hard time believing what they are seeing from the No. 1 ranked blind golfer in the world who doesn’t let his disability affect his ability.