In this interview with RISE, Jeremy Poincenot talks about the trauma of suddenly losing his vision as a college sophomore and how the support of family and friends helped him become a world champion blind golfer and live an extraordinary life beyond any he ever imagined.

At 19, Jeremy Poincenot had every reason to be excited for the future. The college sophomore’s life centered on his friends, golfing, and his fraternity. He had so many opportunities ahead of him when suddenly his world became dark. He lost central vision in his right eye, followed closely by his left. The diagnosis: Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), a rare genetic disorder that affects 100 people in the U.S. each year and has no treatment or cure.

Faced with so many unknowns and uncertainty about his future, Poincenot became depressed, wondering if he’d ever go back to school, have a career, and whether anyone would love him. “When I first lost my sight, I woke up every single day hoping to one day see again,” Poincenot recalled. “Now, 15 years later, I'm perfectly content with my life and wouldn't change a thing.”

Poincenot will share his journey and how he emerged from his despair to become a world champion blind golfer, performance coach, and inspirational speaker at RISE National 2024. His keynote address, “Together we are limitless,” sponsored by Inovalon, will take place on Tuesday, March 19, the final day of the main conference. His presentation will focus on the power of interdependence.

RISE National 2024 | March 17-19, 2024 | Nashville

Until he lost his sight, Poincenot thought that independence was the key to success and asking for help was a weakness. “I think we glorify independence and it’s a misconception. It took me losing my sight to see that, pun intended. When I lost my sight, I became very dependent again and I had to grow up all over again,” he said. “I had to regain my independence as a newly legally blind person and as I was regaining my independence, I started to see the power of interdependence.”

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Poincenot’s shift in mindset began when one of his best friends in college helped him return to school by taking two of the same classes. Although he felt dependent on his friend, Poincenot said his friend told him that he benefitted from the experience as well. His friend said he gained more meaning and purpose in his life than he would have had he not helped his legally blind friend.

Interdependence also came into play when his mother learned that he didn’t have to give up the game of golf. There were competitive golf tournaments for the blind. While golf is an individual sport, blind golf is a team sport because every blind golfer has a guide to help them with each and every shot. For Poincenot, that person is his father.

“My dad is my guide in every competitive round of blind golf we play in and he’s my teammate. He’s a part of every single shot with me. Every championship we’ve won is a we experience, not a me experience,” Poincenot explained. “It’s amazing to be able to share that bond and that experience with my dad. It’s something that I’ll never forget and something that, to me, is much more meaningful than if I were to win golf tournaments as a sighted person by myself.”

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Now 34, married and the father of two young boys, Poincenot has an even greater appreciation of the bond he and his father share and says he’s happier now legally blind than when he was at 19 and had his sight.

“I don’t take as many things for granted anymore,” he said. “I’m pretty lucky and it’s kind of weird to say, but when I lost my sight, I thought it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. But now I feel rather lucky to have all these shared experiences. So, I hope to teach others that asking for help is not a weakness, it’s actually a strength and there’s something beyond independence and that’s the power of interdependence.”

Don’t miss Jeremy Poincenot's keynote presentation, “Together we are limitless,” sponsored by Inovalon, at 9:20 a.m., Tuesday, March 19, at RISE National 2024 in Nashville, Tenn. Click here for the full conference agenda, roster of speakers, and how to register.