Port St. Lucie, PGA of America Host Special Olympics Golf

Florida State Champion Ryan ThomasPORT ST. LUCIE - The PGA of America was joined by national golf organizations, industry media outlets and a community of volunteers to host a national championship for Special Olympics golf. The 9th Annual Special Olympics Golf National Invitational Tournament, Oct. 3-6, 2008, at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., saw golfers with intellectual disabilities find joy in playing golf, making new friends, and achieving personal best scores along with medal-winning rounds.

More than 200 golfers from 24 U.S. Special Olympics programs competed in one of five levels of competition on the club's Ryder and Wanamaker Courses. The national tournament returned to PGA Golf Club for the fifth time in the history of the event. 

The golf industry joined to support Special Olympics golf with The PGA of America, USGA and PGA Tour as presenting sponsors, the LPGA and GCSAA as supporting sponsors and The PGA Golf Club as event sponsor. The PGA of America first introduced golf to Special Olympics in 1988 and makes annual grants to the organization, provides rules expertise at tournaments, free golf clinics and many PGA members volunteer their time to local programs. Since 1992, the USGA has provided financial support and guidance contributing to the growth of the international golf program. The PGA Tour, LPGA and GCSAA are multiple-year sponsors of the annual tournament.

Additionally, Tim Rosaforte, a senior writer for Golf Digest, on-air contributor for the Golf Channel and NBC Sports and a New York Times Best-Selling author, helped tee off the national tournament as the co-emcee of Opening Ceremonies. Rosaforte shared emcee responsibilities with Special Olympics global messenger and Special Olympics golfer Alex Perry in the program similar in style to the Olympic Games opening ceremonies. Golf Digest also contributed prizes for the PGA Play Golf America Clinic & Skills Contest for Special Olympics golfers after the first round on Saturday, Oct. 4.

Golfweek's Deputy Editor Steve Harmon volunteered as the keynote speaker of the annual tournament banquet dinner, as a caddie for Special Olympics golfer Buddy Randall of Wylie, Texas, in the final round and presented medals to golfers in the awards ceremony. Harmon said that his volunteer experience exceeded his expectations. "The atmosphere here is electric and everyone is so joyful," said Harmon. "You can see it in the smiles on the participants' faces how much it means to them to be recognized. Golf does great things to their self esteem."

The Golf Channel was present to capture the excitement of the final round with reporter Adam Barr taking on the guest "official starter" duties. "I wish you the very best of luck in today's final round," said Barr. "And while I know you will play some amazing golf, today is not so much about winning, but enjoying the game; and, based on what I've heard over breakfast, there is no one more qualified to enjoy the game than you. All morning I have heard you wish each other luck over and over again and so I send you off to the final round of your national championship wishing you the same."

Barr also presented medals to golfers in the awards ceremony. The Golf Channel covered the tournament at 8:30 p.m. in "Golf Central" on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008.

As part of a worldwide sports training and competition program for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics golf offers five levels of play for athletes with different golf abilities. Level I consists of an individual skills contest, where six golf skills are tested. Level II is an alternate shot team play, where a Special Olympics athlete is paired with a non-Special Olympics partner of more advanced skill for a 9-hole competition. Level III is Unified Sports team play, pairing Special Olympics and Unified partners of similar ability for an 18-hole competition. Levels IV and V are individual stroke play 9-hole and 18-hole competitions, respectively.

For more information on the tournament, The PGA or PGA Golf Club, please visit www.PGA.com. For more information on Special Olympics, please visit www.specialolympics.org. 


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