Husband. Television history buff. Amateur radio operator. Sailor. Model train enthusiast. Golfer.Mike Mulanax is a lot of things.He just happens to be blind, too.
“If you had to rank the top five things that define who he is,” said Carol, Mike’s wife of 40 years in November, “blind might not come in even ranked at five.”That’s because Mike has not always been blind.The Village of Hillsborough resident began to dramatically lose his eyesight 15 years ago. He said once it did start to go, it went quickly.Mike estimates he has 5 to 10 percent of his vision remaining.The impairment has left the former recreational pilot, boater and scuba diver unable to do a lot of the activities that once enriched his life.Even going on a walk alone is no longer an option.“I have a white cane and I wouldn’t walk across the street without it,” Mike said. “But normally (Carol and I) walk together and we have little signals that she gives me so that I don’t trip.”“I’m the seeing-eye wife,” Carol said. “But it works out, because we do a lot of the same activities. And the ones he does by himself, he’s able to do that on his own.”One of the activities Mike and Carol have found since moving to The Villages is a golf program for the visually impaired, organized by the Lake Sumter Lions Club.The couple found out about the monthly outing at El Santiago executive course by attending another of their many clubs.“We actually met John Thompson from the Lions Club at the Mickey’s Fanatics club,” Carol said. “We sat at the same table and he was telling us about the blind golfing. And Mike said, ‘Hey, I’d like to try that.’“They pretty much taught Mike how to golf.”The club pairs a Lions member with each participant. Lions drive Mike and the other players to each hole and provide as much assistance as needed.“They’ll lay down a PVC pipe, if you want it,” to give the player a swing path to follow, Mike said.For Mike, beyond driving and assistance navigating some terrain quirks golf courses have — such as low-lying ropes around cart paths — not too much assistance is needed.“I can make out the flag in most cases. It might take me anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds to find it. And then once I do, I can aim myself.”Then on the green, Mike walks near his putt’s line, using his balance to read the subtle breaks of the surface.But on the last hole of Mike’s most recent outing, the green didn’t need to be read.Because Mike aced the par-3 ninth.“I didn’t really realize it happened,” Mike said.But Carol did.
“He hit it and it flew toward the flag. And it hit the green and went boop, boop, boop,” Carol said, motioning with a hand how the ball bounced across the putting surface. “And it disappeared.“Somebody said ‘It went in the hole.’ We were all going ‘Ahhh,’ and (Mike) just had the goofiest look on his face.”That look was disbelief.“A few games before I was hitting everything way to the right,” Mike said. “I had just finally got my swing and everything just right.“I didn’t believe it.”That sort of independence for Mike and maintaining the very active lifestyle the couple had enjoyed before Mike began to lose his eyesight was a large part of the reason the two found The Villages.More than a decade ago, Carol said, she was watching golf at their home in Las Vegas and noticed a commercial for The Villages during the telecast. The couple investigated the community and decided they weren’t quite ready to make the move, but a seed had been planted.After a couple visits and some research to determine exactly what type of space they wanted in the community, the couple moved into a villa about four years ago.“One of the things we really wanted was to make sure there were things that Mike could do; maybe even independent of me,” Carol said. “And in Las Vegas there’s just casinos and we didn’t gamble. We wanted him to have things to do.”The golf experience is just one of many examples the couple offered for why they have been so happy since relocating.“It’s all the difference in the world,” Mike said. “If I wasn’t here and I was in Vegas, I wouldn’t be doing anything. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”Ryan Gregg is a senior staff writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5283, or ryan.gregg@thevillagesmedia.com.

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