GALLOWAY, N.J. – Hundreds of Special Olympics athletes, coaches, volunteers, and guests came together for a spirited celebration on Thursday for the Opening Ceremony of the 14th Annual Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament at the Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club.
CBS News television personality Jack Ford was the master of ceremonies for the Olympic-style Opening Ceremony and introduced delegations from 23 Special Olympics North America programs.
“This year’s tournament is a culmination of many hours of extensive training by all the athletes and Unified partners,” he said. “We know you are in store form some exciting competition at this beautiful venue.”
The Opening Ceremony included a presentation of colors by the Middle Township Police Honor Guard and the national anthem performed by Lori Sunshine, an Atlantic City teacher and recording artist. The PGA of America’s Dan Pasternak, District Director, addressed the audience along with Dr. Herman Saatkamp of Stockton Seaview, Jerry Maginnis of KPMG, presenting sponsor, Beth Major of the USGA and T.J. Nelligan, the chairman and CEO of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.
New Jersey Special Olympics athlete Gerry Coburn led competitors in reciting the Special Olympics oath – "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt" – before the tournament was declared officially open with an exciting fireworks presentation.
Special Olympics Golf, part of a worldwide sports program for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, offers five levels of play for athletes with different golf abilities. Three competitive golf rounds will be played on the Stockton Seaview Pines and Bay Courses on Friday through Sunday. Tournament awards ceremonies will take place on the Bayview Terrace immediately following the final round on Sunday.
Tournament competitors range in age from 13 years old to 61 years old and represent Special Olympics programs from Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, plus Manitoba and Ontario, Canada.
“I’m looking forward to just playing my game and having fun and meeting all the athletes out there,” said Kevin Pritchard, Special Olympics athlete representing Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. “I’m glad I am here because it’s a good opportunity for me to learn this course that I’ve never seen before."
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 an alternate shot team play, where a Special Olympics athlete is paired with a non-Special Olympics Partner (golfer without intellectual disability) of more advanced skill for a 9-hole competition. Level III is Special Olympics Unified Sports team play, pairing Special Olympics and Partners of similar ability for an 18-hole competition. Levels IV and V are individual stroke play 9-hole and 18-hole competitions, respectively.
The Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament, presented by KPMG, is being hosted by the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games Organizing Committee, in conjunction with Special Olympics North America. The 2013 Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament is also being supported by tournament sponsors The PGA of America, USGA and PGA Tour.