Surrounded by Guiding Eyes dogs and puppies, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning helped kick off the 36th Annual Guiding Eyes for the Blind Golf Classic, an event expected to raise about $500,000 in June.
At the Spring Tee-Off event at Mulino’s of Westchester in White Plains, Manning spoke with fondness about the organization he’s helped bring awareness to for the past seven years. “Each year, you hear new stories of what Guiding Eyes is doing and the lives they’re either saving or making much better,” said the two-time Super Bowl Champion.
One of those whose life was made a bit easier as a result of Guiding Eyes was on hand last night as well. Kate Katulak told of how she lost her sight as a teenager, and, afterward, wouldn’t leave the house without someone to hold on to for fear she might get hurt.
But that changed when she got her first guide dog. “In the moment when I held onto the dog’s harness and took those first steps, unaccompanied by another person, but still having a pair of eyes watching out for me, it honestly felt like my life had been given back to me,” she said.
In the seven years he’s been involved with the event, Manning has helped raise millions of dollars for the organization, all of which go to helping people like Katulak. Manning was initially introduced to the Golf Classic through a family friend, Patrick W. Browne Jr., himself blind and a 24-time Corcoran Cup champion, a tournament known as the “Masters” for the blind. “Having known Mr. Browne for so long and seeing him and how guide dogs have helped him, I knew they were doing great work,” Manning said.
And while he enjoys the friendly rivalry golf provides him in the offseason (though he questions his father’s seemingly ever-increasing handicap), Manning, inspired by Browne, tried his hand at golfing blind while wearing a blindfold. “[Patrick Browne] walked me through the putting process—which is hard enough—but to actually try to get up there and hit a golf ball and hit different shots sounds just about impossible,” he says.
During the event, Manning also took some time to speak about football. After a couple of days of light practicing, he’s hopeful the Giants can get back to their winning ways, and that star receiver Victor Cruz, who’s still in contract talks with the team, will be able to join them. “We get into some real practices next week,” Manning said. “So, hopefully, as we get kind of into those live going-against-a-defense practices, he will get back in so we can get back to work.”
But, since nothing is certain, he’s looking to others to help produce on the field. “Each year, you’ll need new guys to step up,” said Manning. “Jerrel [Jernigan, a wide receiver] has also got to be able to help us. He has speed, he has skills, he’s been in the system now a number of years so, hopefully, he can step up and fill a role for us. The more talented guys you have on the team able to make plays for you the better off you’ll be.’’
Manning also likes what he sees from another Giants quarterback, Ryan Nassib, who the team selected in the fourth round out of Syracuse University. “I got to see a few games of his while he was in Syracuse,” said Manning. “But he’s come in, he’s working hard, and doing everything he can to learn the system.”
For more information on the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Golf Classic, which takes place June 9 and 10 at Mount Kisco Country Club in Mount Kisco and Fairvew Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, go to www.guidingeyes.org.