LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. – The appearance of three-time LPGA winner I.K. Kim during Thursday’s practice round, skills clinic and opening ceremonies added to the anticipation of a new venue and the first round of the 2012 Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament played Friday at The Wigwam Resort. A field of 203 golfers from 19 programs representing the United States and Canada are competing in five levels of competition in the 13th annual tournament through Sunday. KPMG, The PGA of America, USGA and PGA Tour are presenting sponsors of the 2012 tournament.
On Friday, in the 18-hole individual stroke play competition (Level V), Scott Rohrer of York, S.C., shot an 83 on the par-72 Gold Course to lead the field. Scott was the record-making gold medalist at the 2010 Special Olympics National Golf Invitational Tournament when he shot the 18-hole and 54-hole individual stroke play record of 71-75-75—221 at the Highlands Golf Course in Lincoln, Neb.
Last year, he played in the Level III is Unified Sports team play 18-hole competition with his father, Jeff, winning the gold medal for the top men’s division. Tyler Whitehurst of Dunedin, Fla., was the 18-hole individual stroke-play gold medalist in 2011 and currently is three shots behind Rohrer with an 86.
In the 9-hole individual stroke play competition (Level IV), Ian Swain of Manitoba, Canada, shot a 47 for a three-shot lead over John Stapleton of Elkridge, Md., and Danny Dasis of Butler, Ala., on the par-70 (36-34) Patriot Course. Swain, a Special Olympics competitor for 12 years, advanced to this tournament for the first time this year and shot par on five of his nine holes, a personal best record.
Swain is impressed by the course, saying, “It really tests your skills and choice in playing, do you be bold and just go for it? Or do you hold back?"
Two Nebraska teams lead the Unified Sports team play 9-hole and 18-hole competitions (Levels II & III) on the Gold Course. Kyle Bugge and Jake Hemelstrand (partner) of Bellevue, Neb., shot an 86 in the 18-hole Unified Sports team play competition (Level III). Jesse and Keith Pease (partner) of Sioux City, Iowa, are four shots back heading into Round 2.
The team of Brent Apo-Hruska and John Moen (partner) of Bellevue, Neb., shot a 40 in the 9-hole Unified Sports team play competition (Level II) on the Patriot Course. Two teams are four shots back – Zachary Fishburn and Kyle Coleman (partner) of San Mateo, Fla. and Chris and Terry Ringot (partner) of St. Louis, Mo.
The individual skills competition (Level I) tests competitors in six different shot-making skills and the highest score wins. After Round 1, two Maryland players are on top of the leaderboard with Shane Molovinsky of Rockville scoring 72 points and Stanley Frederick of Frederick scoring 67 points.
About the 2012 Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament
The 13th Annual Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament is being held Sept. 6-9, 2012, at The Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park, Ariz. Special Olympics golf is part of the worldwide Special Olympics sports movement for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. More than 200 golfers representing 18 U.S. states and Canada are competing in one of five levels of competition at the tournament. Opening Ceremonies began the tournament on Thursday, with three competitive golf rounds played Friday through Sunday. Awards ceremonies for the golf competition will take place immediately following the final round on Sunday.
Special Olympics Golf allows athletes to grow in the game as they gain experience. Level I competition consists of an individual skills contest, where six golf skills are tested. Level II is Unified Sports alternate shot team play, where a Special Olympics athlete is paired with a golfer without intellectual disability for 9-hole competition. Level III is Unified Sports team play, pairing Special Olympics athletes and golfers without intellectual disabilities for an 18-hole competition. Levels IV and V are individual stroke play 9-hole and 18-hole competitions, respectively. Tournament rounds begin daily at 7:00 a.m., Sept. 7-9, with Levels II & IV being played on the Patriot Course and Levels III & V on the Gold Course.
The Special Olympics golf program began in 1988 with the assistance of The PGA of America and USGA. Since then, both associations contribute to the growth of the program with grassroots training, rules education, tournament administration and national program financial support. The PGA Tour also provides ongoing financial support to the program. PGA Tour player Padraig Harrington and LPGA Tour player I.K. Kim are Special Olympics ambassadors for golf. Currently, more than 19,000 Special Olympics athletes participate in golf training and competition within 49 U.S. Special Olympics programs. Worldwide, more than 50 countries offer Special Olympics golf programs.