“It’s like bowling into a black hole.”
This is the description Carol Bebee gives on how her son, Daniel Piggott, plays his new chosen sport despite a big obstacle being in his way — not being able to see where he is aiming at.
The reason for this is a debilitating eye condition — Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) — which means he can only see four metres ahead.
Yet, after only taking up the game at the start of this year, Piggott has already claimed success on the bowling greens at West Row Bowls Club.
“It was my first proper game,” recalls the Essex-born 33-year-old, “and it was a team event, so I can’t take all the credit!”
Piggott was born with the inherited eye disease RP, which causes the loss of peripheral vision, resulting in the depletion of sight outside the centre of gaze.
Diagnosis can occur at any age, as a progressive decline in the rod photoreceptor cells continues to weaken the sight of the occupant.
“I was diagnosed with RP when I was 15 and am registered blind,” explains Piggott. “I started playing bowls earlier this year.
“I had seen it on the telly before and it was my mum who persuaded me to give it a go.”
Piggott tried the sport out during one of the West Row club’s weekly open sessions, and with his already-keen bowler mum Carol by his side, quickly caught the bowls bug.
“The people are all very helpful,” said Piggott. “I lose the wood at about four metres. It’s interesting trying to find a way to do it! I have to feel, rather than work it out, as to where to bowl it.”
Piggott took part in his first competition in February, and was part of the yellow team that won the Bussens & Parkin trophy.
And mum Carol, who was also in the yellow team, couldn’t hide her delight when reminiscing about her son’s first win in the sport.
“He’s picked it up really well,” beams Bebee. “After four metres it’s blurred for him, and it’s like bowling into a black hole.
“For Daniel to win his first trophy is brilliant, and in another year he could think about more club competitions which are played at a higher level.
“At the moment he is the only visually-impaired bowler at the club, and everyone has grouped together to help him play.”
Piggott is hoping his success will inspire others who are partially-sighted to try out bowls.
“I don’t know anyone else who is visually-impaired that plays,” said Piggott, who is currently completing a course to become a personal trainer.
“The course is run by InstructAbility, who also fund my course. They aim to get disabled people into work.
“I’ve always loved going to the gym, so it would be great to start a career there.”
West Row Bowls Club run an open session every Wednesday from 6-7pm, with free entry for new members for the first six weeks. To find out more please call the club’s chairman Peter Rolfe on 07501 640328.