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May 15, 2021

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Legally blind golfer overcomes health challenges

Washougal's Hyde aided by positive attitude

By , Columbian High School Sports Reporter
2 Photos
Washougal's Laycee Hyde is legally blind, but doesn't let that get in the way of her active life as class president and athlete.
Washougal's Laycee Hyde is legally blind, but doesn't let that get in the way of her active life as class president and athlete. Photo Gallery

WASHOUGAL — Life is super for Washougal senior Laycee Hyde.

She loves that word, super.

Maybe it’s because life was not always, you know, so super.

Her golf game, by standards of the best in high school varsity competition, is unremarkable. But considering she could never play sports growing up, by looking at her improvement in the past four seasons, yeah, her game is super cool.

Her high school life rocks, too. Class president the past three years, a high grade-point average, a mentor. All of her accomplishments made more remarkable considering she was constantly teased in her younger days, harassed by peers who were too young to understand.

Laycee Hyde is legally blind.

She had to wear thick, coke-bottled glasses until the sixth grade, when she traded in the ugly eyewear for specialty contact lenses. In the second grade, a nasty form of psoriasis invaded her body, leaving her skin with scales on 80 percent of her body.

On many days, she sat on the sideline in gym class, unable to compete. Her scales would crack, and sometimes bleed, with sudden movements. On the days when she did participate, even with her glasses, she had no peripheral vision so failure was usually her destiny.

“It never really got me down,” Hyde said, refusing the let on just how much it hurt. “I was teased a little bit. Maybe a little bit more than a little bit. But it didn’t ruin my life. That’s why I’m a pretty positive person today. When things are rough for me, I can always say I’ve gone through things that are worse than that.”

Tears in early years

Helen and Keith Hyde cried for their daughter.

“Her mother and I had many crying sessions, looking at the inhumanity of young people against other young people,” Keith Hyde said. “I don’t know what was inside of Laycee, but she always chose to see the good side in people.”

After trying “10,000 different things,” Laycee said, she and her family found an experimental drug to combat the psoriasis that has worked the past five years. Her father injects Laycee twice a week. Laycee’s skin is almost completely clear, with the exception of a few bumps on her elbows, leaving only a high school student with a bubbly personality, a great sense of humor about all that she has endured, and a zest for life.

Her eye condition, the numerous procedures through the years, have left her with amblyopia — lazy eye.

“I see fine (with my contacts) but most of the time people don’t know where I’m looking,” she said with a laugh.

Through it all, she never envisioned she would play high school sports.

“I had never been successful at athletics. When people would throw balls at me, I didn’t catch them,” Laycee said. “In Dodgeball, I’d get hit in the face a bunch of times. Wasn’t really fun.”

Yet, she did excel with individual activities. She earned her black belt in a form of mixed martial arts.

Her closest friend, Lindsey Harrell, convinced Laycee to try out for golf her freshman year.

“I wasn’t really good, but I was able to do it,” Laycee recalled. “I was kind of excited. By no means am I the best golfer on the team, but I have a lot of fun. And it makes me happy that I can actually do it.”

She can see the ball on the tee, but as soon as she hits it, she has a difficult time following the ball’s flight path. So before every round, she asks her playing partners for a little assistance.

“I don’t tell them my whole story, but I tell them about my vision,” Laycee said. “I always say, ‘Do you know where my ball is? Because I don’t.’ I feel like I drive everybody nuts.”

Fortunately for her playing partners, Hyde’s golf game has its limitations.

“I hit it straight, but I don’t hit it really far,” she said.

Finding the ball is more than just about helping out her score. It also helps her finances.

“Good balls are expensive. I don’t like having to buy new sleeves (of balls) all the time,” she said. “I haven’t lost too many more balls than anybody else. Well, maybe slightly more.”

When she started the game, she was shooting in the high 70s for a nine-hole round. Now, she is averaging in the low 60s, with a best round of a 49.

“I wasn’t looking to be our No. 1 golfer,” Hyde said. “I just wanted to golf.”

This season, the Panthers played in Prairie’s invitational, which featured a different approach. Players with different skill sets from different teams were teamed together to compete in two separate formats. Hyde’s team won one of the competitions.

“My trophy was 3 inches tall, but that’s the first trophy I’ve ever won for anything,” Hyde said. “I was so excited. I got a medal and a trophy, and it made me feel like a winner.”

Her season, and her high school career, will likely come to an end today at the district tournament. But she promises golf will be with her for the rest of her life.

“It’s an outlet for me to push myself. All I’m doing is competing against myself,” Hyde said. “It’s something I can do. I really love it. I’m sad this is my last (high school) season, but I want to have golf forever.”

Her success on the links opened her mind to other sporting endeavors. She ran cross country for the Panthers her junior and senior years.

“I’m not very fast,” she said — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a vision-impaired athlete.

“There was always someone ahead of me, so I could always follow them,” she said, along with another laugh. “I did trip sometimes. I wouldn’t see a branch or a stump.”

Overcoming obstacles

Life seemed so dead-set against Laycee Hyde in the beginning. Born with cataracts, she had her lenses removed when she was 3 months old. At the time, her parents were not sure how much she would be able to see. Then to grow up with a skin disorder. Those glasses. Those scales. Then those bloody breakouts. At such a young age, especially.

Laycee Hyde remained upbeat, and she credits her upbringing for the positive attitude.

“My parents and I are really close. They’ve always wanted what’s best for me, and they’ve supported me in everything I’ve tried,” Laycee said. “I couldn’t ask for better parents. They played a really big part in my success.”

By the time she got to high school, Laycee had already gone through so much that she really only wanted to look forward. Those glasses she had when she was younger gave her some vision, but nothing like the specialty contact lenses. She has peripheral vision while wearing them. She passed her eye test for her driver’s license. She is on the move.

“I’m super-duper into everything,” she said, noting that she was the class vice president her freshman year before becoming president the past three years.

She is a member of the National Honor Society.

She is a volunteer for the mentor program, to help younger students get accustomed to high school life.

She carries a 3.717 grade-point average and has been accepted to the University of Washington.

“I just want to work with people. I love people,” Laycee said.

All the heckling could have made her bitter. Instead, she found the greater good in a lot of those who used to tease her. Years later, many of them, as they matured into teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, have apologized. Many of them are her friends now.

Easy to see why.

“They think I’m a real positive person. I can be in bad moods, too. I’m not happy all the time. But I do feel more than most people, I can see the brighter side of situations,” Laycee Hyde said. “Everybody likes happy people. You can make other people happy when you’re happy.”

Simply super.