By Pamela Price
When Israeli pro golfer Zohar Sharon arrived for lunch with his entourage at Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert Jan. 18, he was accompanied by Venus, a yellow lab and golden retriever mix, and Sharon’s guide dog. Sharon, who is blind, travels the world as an ambassador for the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, from which Venus originated. This day, he was in Palm Desert to compete in a golf tournament and to speak at an event chaired by Helen Varon, founder of the Matthew Varon Chapter of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind.
In addition to speaking on the good work of the Tel Aviv-area nonprofit, Sharon spends quite a bit of time honing his talent at the Caesarea Gold Club. He’s the reigning champion and three-time winner of the International Blind Golf Championships held in Scotland, Ireland and England and has five hole-in-one shots on his resume.
Like many of the recipients of guide dogs in Israel, Sharon was not born blind. He lost his sight diffusing a bomb during a 1979 military exercise while in the Israel Defense Forces, but it hasn’t stopped him from living a normal, fulfilled life.
After playing 18 holes of golf at Desert Willow, the 70 guests who had gathered to support the Guide Dog Center showered him with applause. At the luncheon, surprise guest and comedian Shecky Greene shared the podium and a few laughs.
Among guests fascinated by Sharon’s story were Joel Johnson, Denny Seidenfeld, Allen Lechtman, Karen Buxbum, Rabbi Sally Olins of Temple Isaiah, Jeff Hocker, Judd Spicer, Miriam Wiegel, and Davidi and Lizi Compton.
Helena Galper of Coronado introduced Michael J. Levanthal, director of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, and Dr. Yoni Peres, an Israeli veterinarian affiliated with the center, both of whom traveled with Sharon to speak about its work.
“There are more than 27,000 blind and visually impaired Israelis, one of the highest per capita rates of blindness in the world,” Levanthal said. “Thanks to our fundraising efforts, soldiers, along with innocent civilians, will be served. This is accomplished at no cost to the blind, thanks to the generosity of donors.”