Amanda Cunha first noticed something was off about her vision just over twelve months ago, but she had no idea the diagnosis would change her life forever.
“I was driving to school and I was like ‘huh, Something is wrong with my vision,’ I didn’t know what it was for a good month or so. After multiple doctor visits we found out that it was permanent vision loss and it would be progressive,” Cunha told KHON2’s Alan Hoshida during a practice session.
Cunha was diagnosed with Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, a permanent disease that would progressively make her eyesight deteriorate over time. She’s gone from fully sighted to legally blind in the span of a year. It’s a life changing diagnosis for anyone, especially to a teenager that to the outside world may not appear to be visually impaired.
“There is no visual indicator that I am impaired or anything like that, so sometimes I have my cane. My white cane. Right now, I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t rely on it or need it, but sometimes I need to use it to communicate that there is a visually impaired person.”
The 18-year-old had to relearn everyday basic function, including golf, a sports she’s played for most of her life. She would need to add a member to her team in an otherwise isolating game. Her dad, Larry, became her caddie and more importantly became her eyes on the golf course.
“I have to trust that he knows I’m aligned to the right spot or I have to trust that he’s telling me the yardage that I need to and making sure it’s enough club. All of these combined is what makes us a great team,” Cunha explained, “Being able to golf with the vision impairment has been the biggest challenge at first because I couldn’t see the green. I couldn’t see the flag from a certain distance. I was always trying to look for it even though I knew it wasn’t there. After a lot of hard work and keep practicing at it and trying to get muscle memory back was super great.”
Amanda found her swing again and her dreams of playing college golf. She is set to join the University of Arizona’s revolutionary adaptive golf program in the fall. The only one of it’s kind in the country.
This week, she will participating in the inaugural USGA Adaptive Open at iconic Pinehurst Country Club. The Le Jardin graduate is one of eighteen women in the field. She begins her 1st round at 3:12 am HT.
“I’m very excited to inspire both young and old individuals who maybe don’t have the confidence to play in their sport that they really love. I can’t thank USGA enough for hosting this event because adaptive golf is not in the Paralympics right now, so this is a huge step forward in getting it into the Paralympics.”