Eye surgery changes his view of golf

February 15, 2011 

Kevin Bishop downsized his professional world as a way to expand his horizons.

He didn’t expect to be literally blindsided.

The aftermath of difficult eye surgery last fall has left Bishop, golf coach at Saint Martin’s University, with a “black curtain” where the peripheral vision in his right eye used to be.

It has been a maddening and debilitating preoccupation at a time when Bishop was hoping to settle into a new routine of coaching and teaching that would leave him more time to take his game onto the golf course as a player.

Bishop’s new working life began to take shape last fall when he sold his business, the First Tee/PGA Golf Center, 8000 72nd Lane S.E.

Bishop, by his own admission bad at delegation, was ready to give up doing the bulk of the maintenance at the sprawling practice and teaching facility just off Yelm Highway past the train station.

He was looking forward to coming home from a trip with his golf team and not having to face all the work around the place that had piled up while he was gone.

“I’m 57 and I wanted to take it easy on my back, and play more,” he said. “And this (stuff) happened.”

Bishop had gone in for surgery on his left eye last June to address “floaters”— minute bits of protein or cell tissue in the vitreous fluid of the inner eye that float around in his field of vision. The surgery, called a vitrectomy, involves draining the fluid and replacing it with pure saline gel.

All was routine. Perfect. Problem solved. So Bishop scheduled the same surgery on his right eye for early November.

This time, it was not so routine, and far from perfect. He was driving home one night a month after the second surgery and started seeing bright flashes.

The cause was a hemorrhage in the eye, possibly caused by a tiny nick of the retina during the vitrectomy.

So he went back for more surgery to take care of the hemorrhaging and repair the retina. That was six weeks ago, and since then, he’s got a hole in his peripheral vision to his right and not a whole lot of encouragement in the prognosis.

There remains possible residual damage to his retina, and one surgeon he consulted said there might be damage to the optic nerve.

“Either one it is, there’s a chance for it (to) come back a little bit, so time will tell,” Bishop said.

Physically, there are days the hole in his vision doesn’t bother him so much. But the mental adjustment has been something else again.

Bishop was among the 500 or so people at the Saint Martin’s athletics crab feed on Friday, his first time in a crowd of people since the surgeries. It was disconcerting, he said, to hear but not be able to see the people to his right offering their greetings.

He counts as a small favor that it’s his right eye, and not his left, which for golf would be disastrous.

Bishop hasn’t played a round of golf in months, but he has started hitting balls. He had wanted to play along with his Saint Martin’s players in qualifying rounds to determine the team’s lineup for spring tournaments. (The Saints had the fifth of six qualifiers on Sunday, leading to their tournament at the Cal State San Bernardino invitational, Feb. 27–March 1.)

“From a golf standpoint, I don’t know how much it’s going to hurt me,” said Bishop, who won his third Washington PGA Senior Match Play championship last September.

“It’s just such a weird different feeling. It’s been a struggle.”


Bishop’s sale of his teaching and practice center last fall is part of a changing greenscape in Greater Olympia golf shops.

Bishop sold his PGA Golf Center to Mike Givens, who owns of the Tacoma Firs Golf Center, manages Oakbrook Golf and Country Club and runs the pro shop at Olympia Country & Golf Club.

Givens installed Doug Gullikson to run the pro shop at the PGA Golf Center, now called the Olympia Golf and Learning Center.

The facility’s role in the new First Tee of South Sound is being defined, said Matt Enloe, acting executive director of the new chapter, which will combine Olympia and Tacoma/Pierce County First Tee chapters.

Enloe said he is working with Givens on programming, and Givens has joined the board for the new chapter. Enloe promises more details in the near future.

Olympia freelance writer Bart Potter can be reached at greygoatee06@comcast.net

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