Like most golfers, Special Olympics athletes are driven by the opportunity to compete. Program planning is designed to develop individual golf skills that enhance performance, allowing the athlete to achieve success in playing the game. Both on the practice area and on the course, Special Olympics athletes participating in golf have gained the respect of their golf peers. In 2003 Special Olympics champion golfer Kevin Erickson left the crowd speechless when he shot a 76 (including a hole in one!) and a 79 enroute to winning the 2003 Special Olympics Golf National Invitational Tournament - and he won another gold medal at the 2004 Special Olympics Golf National Invitational Tournament. Third time was most definitely the charm for Erickson, as he shot a new NIT 18-hole individual stroke play record-low round of 75 (a personal best) to win his third consecutive gold medal at the 2005 Special Olympics Golf National Invitational Tournament.The Special Olympics Golf program is centered on two educational phases designed to encompass all skill levels: learning to swing a golf club and learning to play the game. Athletes may participate in Skills, 9 hole stroke play or 18 hole stroke play.
Special Olympics golf includes five levels of competition:
Level 1: Individual Skill Contest - entry-level athletes are tested for six skills similar to on-course play, including a wood shot, an iron shot, a pitch shot, a chip shot, a long putt and a short putt.
Level 2: Unified Sports® Team Play Competition - a nine-hole alternate shot format that teams a Special Olympics player with a non-Special Olympics player of more advanced skill and knowledge.
Level 3: Unified Sports Team Play - 18-hole alternate shot format that teams a Special Olympics player with a non-Special Olympics player of similar ability
Level 4: Individual Stroke Play - 9-hole
Level 5: Individual Stroke Play - 18-hole
As noted above, Special Olympics athletes can also participate in Unified Sports® Golf Team Play. Special Olympics Unified Sports is a program that combines Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition. In Unified Sports golf, a team would include one Special Olympics athlete and one partner; teammates should be of similar ability.
John's Golf Course: A Special Olympics Montana athlete's father builds him a unique course, and creates a community in the process
2005 Special Olympics Golf National Invitational Tournament held in Ames, Iowa (USA)
A Perfect Match, A Perfect Day, A Perfect Partnership: Special Olympics Great Britain athlete competes in 2004 Volvo PGA Pro-Am
Golf made its debut at the 1995 Special Olympics World Summer Games in New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
At the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games, held in North Carolina, USA, Kevin Erickson of Wisconsin, USA, broke a Special Olympics World Games record by scoring a 78 at Washington Duke Country Club Golf Course. (Meet Kevin Erickson, his mother, and grandmother in the "Meet our Families" section of this Web site.)
119 athletes from 12 Programs competed in golf at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland.
As of the 2005 Special Olympics Athlete Participation Report, 13,916 Special Olympics athletes compete in golf.
The following event provides meaningful competition for athletes with lower ability levels:
Level 1 - Individual Skills Competition (Short Putt, Long Putt, Chip Shot, Pitch Shot, Iron Shot, Wood Shot)
United States Golf Association
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews