The Sechelt Golf Course was the venue for a first-time event on Sunday as Sunshine Coast Special Olympics played host to a regional qualifier.
A total of 30 athletes from the North Shore, Vancouver, Delta and Burnaby competed in the event with Lindsay Pearson, Michael Brooks and Dustin Archer representing the Sunshine Coast. Lindsay finished third in the female division, while Michael was fourth and Dustin fifth in the men’s division.
The athletes were playing for the opportunity to compete in the 2013 Special Olympics B.C. (SOBC) Summer Games in Langley. This event will mark golf’s second such appearance in the SOBC Summer Games.
The athletes teed off in a shotgun start. The clouds were threatening rain at times, but the weather held. Many of the visiting athletes found the Sechelt course challenging, but all of them completed their round.
Athletes also vied for the closest to the pin award and longest drive award. The winners will be announced in the fall when all the qualifying events have been completed.
“We owe thanks to the Sechelt Golf Course for all the support they have provided for our program and for this event,” said SC Special Olympics golf coach Annette Bertrand. “We practice every Wednesday, from the beginning of April through the end of June. We are given full use of the driving range and putting and chipping greens. In addition, when the course is quiet, we have been able to take the athletes out and play a few holes.”
The event concluded with a dinner and awards at the Sechelt Golf Club Grill.
The Special Olympics golf program on the Sunshine Coast started three years ago and drew six participants in its first year.
Head coach Mike Ryan started the program and added assistant coaches Chuck Bertrand and Annette, along with new volunteer coaches, and the number of athletes jumped to 17.
As a result of exceptional demand, the program has had to be capped at 15 athletes with a waiting list option. Everyone who has been involved with the SOBC - Sunshine Coast program fully enjoys it.
“We get more out of it than [the athletes] do,” said Chuck. “We always come home smiling and talking about the accomplishments and developments of the athletes. We’ve got a love for the sport, we have knowledge of the sport, and we have individuals involved who have a love for the sport and a knowledge of the sport. The big thing is the athletes are so great.”
The coaches have been learning the best ways to engage and communicate with each athlete, understanding their needs and what works for each one, Annette added.
“It’s a real blend. We have some of the athletes who have a real understanding of the game and are very independent on the golf course. We have others who just love it, they get so excited because they are going out on the golf course, a real golf course, but they do need the guidance,” she said.