A Golf Legend Goes Blind and Has to Sell Everything She Owns — Until Word Spreads and Her Community Steps In
She gave and gave to her community—until it was she who needed them most.
Cathy Burton is well known in her hometown of Binscarth, Manitoba. She grew up participating in many sports, including curling and golf. But it was in the latter that she really shined.
After seeing a golf magazine with a woman on the front cover, Burton was intrigued. She was all of ten years old, but she decided to give it a try at the local golf course. She was hooked. Burton started taking lessons and perfecting her game.
Her big shot came when a player unexpectedly dropped out of the Canadian Women’s Amateur—and Burton took her place.
Cathy Helped Build Golf Nationwide
“Wow, this is a really cool sport,” Burton remembers thinking, “and I want to take it further.”
Soon, Burton wasn’t well known in Binscarth alone.
She started playing golf professionally, winning many championships and making a name for herself. But the game wasn’t an end-all for Burton. It was a tool to do more. She wanted to give back to the community and to inspire girls like herself who maybe didn’t always see a place for themselves in other sports.
In 1994, Burton brought the LPGA Girls Club to Canada, helping young girls in the community to get involved in golf. She thought about 30 girls would show up to the opening event. To her complete surprise and gratification, 140 girls came.
Burton coached, and it soon became evident that she had a way of working with young people. She moved to Calgary, Alberta, and started working as a course professional at a couple golf courses there. In 2009, she was inducted into the Manitoba Golf Hall of Hame, not only for her athleticism but also for her efforts to build the sport in Canada.
A Tragic Diagnosis
But Burton didn’t stop there. After studying sports psychology at the University of Winnipeg, she realized that there was yet another way she could care for young athletes. Sports psychologist Dr. Cal Botterill started referring golfers to Burton for help with their mental game.
Burton was living the dream, doing what she loved and helping so many people in the process. But that all came to a halt when, at age 61, she was diagnosed with kidney disease. Suddenly, she had to go on dialysis and get on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
She tried to keep up with her busy lifestyle, but those around her noticed as her healthy steadily declined and she lost weight. After five years of dialysis, Burton finally had a kidney transplant. But the surgery was not the miracle cure she was hoping for.
Complications led to several infections and the loss of sight in both eyes. Burton came to the hard realization that she would have to leave the dream she loved. She would never golf again.
Instead, Burton found herself having to rely on federal disability payments that didn’t even cover the cost of her mortgage, much less the expensive medications she needed, food, utilities, or other basic necessities. Burton sold her car and as many other assets as she could think of, but she quickly found herself digging into her line of credit.
The Golf Community Steps in to Save Their Friend
And then she nearly lost her home. It was yet another blow to the usually upbeat Burton; she couldn’t see a way forward. But the PGA Canada Foundation Benevolent Fund stepped in and paid her household expenses. “That was extremely helpful,” she said. “I don’t think that I would have been able to keep my home. I think that would have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
But the charitable organization was only the first to step in. Quickly, Burton’s golfing community rallied around her, launching two GoFundMe campaigns. Someone else reached out to cover food and supplies for Burton’s dog, Lewis.
“It’s been incredible, actually. There’s been so many different people reaching out,” Burton said.
Bob Christie from Burton’s hometown for Binscarth launched a GoFundMe campaign that raised over $7,000. In the page description, Christie wrote: “She deserves it. She desperately wants to return to a life where she can contribute in some way.” He said that the money raised would help Burton retain some control over her life.
“Let us be there for her,” Bob Christie wrote. As she had always been there for them.
Good Deeds Come Back Around
Burton’s friend Richard Legge rallied support from current and former golf course members. He originally set his fundraising goal at $1500 but within days changed it to $1500. “Wow. You have all been so generous,” he wrote. “Obviously I seriously underestimated the response and would like to change our goal.” To date, over $20,000 has been raised.
On the fundraising pages, friends and family wrote words of support, commending Burton for her contributions to the community, such as helping their kids with their golf game.
Donations also came in from Burton’s local Anglican Church and the Lions Club. There were several anonymous donations, including one for $5000.
To the woman who had given so much of her time and talents to the community, it must have been truly heartwarming to see it all circle back.
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