EVEN the darkest of clouds can have a silver lining. “It’s actually pretty funny, because my golf handicap has got better since I’ve lost my sight,” said Barry McCluskey of a disability that has never been a barrier to sporting fulfilment.

What was it Arnold Palmer said again? “Success in golf depends less on strength of body, more on strength of mind and character.” McCluskey is proof of that. Despite a devastating condition known as keratoconus, which cost him the sight in his left eye at the age of 18 and spread to the other eye a number of years later, McCluskey, now 41, has retained a mental fortitude that’s as sturdy as a cast-iron girder. Next week at Woburn, alongside some of the world’s best disabled golfers, the Uddingston man will contest The R&A’s inaugural G4D Open. It promises to be a rousing showcase of golf’s inclusivity. The auld stick and ba’ game truly is a sport for all.

“The thing that drives me is the chance to inspire another generation,” said McCluskey, who won the US Blind Open in 2019 and the Spanish title last year.

“I’m strong minded. I have handled losing my sight quite well. But there might be a wee kid coming along who maybe isn’t as mentally strong as me. Hopefully they hear my story, and the stories of all the other disabled golfers, and that gives them hope, inspiration and determination to take up golf or any other sport. Losing your sight is not the end of the world.”

The McCluskey name, of course, is well-kent in a very different ball game. His dad, George, had a long career with Celtic and scored the winning goal against Rangers in the 1980 Scottish Cup final which sparked a riot of flying cans and bottles that was the Old Firm’s chaotic equivalent of the deposit return scheme.

“Obviously, I had dreams of being a footballer too but those ambitions were kiboshed by my diagnosis,” said McCluskey junior. “It can be difficult when your dad is well known. When I was playing people would say, ‘Ach, he’ll never be as good as his dad’ and all that nonsense. But I have never lost my determination and competitiveness and that’s a trait I get from my dad.”

In the Glasgow goldfish bowl, golf offered the McCluskeys a tranquil escape. “When I was young, we couldn’t really socialise because of dad’s profile,” he said. “So, golf became our time together and the course was where we would build a father-and-son relationship.”

That relationship has taken on new meaning as the years have passed. Golf may be a very individual game but, in the disabled arena, the team ethic is very much the fore. McCluskey’s dad acts as his son’s guide on the course as they work together to plot a path to success. The alliance is a strong one. Well, most of the time.

“Don’t get me wrong, we can fall out and have a difference of opinions on golf shots,” added McCluskey with a chortle “But we have a great relationship. When you lose your sight, golf becomes a team sport and you need to build up that trust with your guide.

“I can see the ball at my feet but it’s blurred. As soon as I hit it, I have no idea where it’s going. You can still feel the sensation of hitting a good one, though. If I swing it consistently then I’ll make the right connection. Some days, of course, you’re not swinging it well. But that’s golf for you. And every golfer, blind or not, will moan about that.”

Whether there will be moans and groans next week remains to be seen but, whatever happens, McCluskey is relishing the opportunities that the G4D Open will provide. “This is another great chance to show that having a disability shouldn’t be a barrier,” he said. “It’s not about proving people wrong, it’s proving to myself that I can compete at the top level. Golf is a sport for all and we need to keep getting that message out. Yes, there are people who still look at me and think, ‘You’re visually impaired, so how can you play golf?’ But it’s all part of educating people. I have a disability, but it doesn’t hold me back. And it shouldn’t hold me back.”