When Golf Brings a Family Closer

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This is not a story about professional golfers, not a debate on whether Tiger Woods is the best player in the world, no argument on whether Michelle Wie is doing the right thing or the wrong thing, or whether Annika Sorenstam will eventually catch Kathy Whitworth.
 
This is not story about professional golf courses, or the professional instructors. Its a story about you or me, everyday people who do everyday things, but maybe in little special way.
 
Its a story about the Pease family ' brothers Jesse and Jason, their father Keith and mother Joelle, who live in the heartland of Sioux City, Iowa. And its a story about Special Olympics golf. Jesse, age 24, has an intellectual disability, and the entire family has rallied around him to see that he gets his week to experience golf in a tournament setting, competing against similar golfers from all across the country.
 
The Special Olympics golf tournament was held last week in Ames, Iowa, 141 athletes from 41 states competing. Jesse and 29-year-old Jason competed as a team in Level 3 - an 18-hole alternate shot format that teams a Special Olympics player with a non-Special Olympics player of similar ability. Oh ' Jesse and Jason finished second, behind only Jason Plante, age 16, and his father Robert Plante of Lafayette, Ind.
 
The question is, who enjoyed the experience more ' Jesse or big brother Jason? And the answer might have been, Jason.
 
This is the first time that Ive ever done something like this, said Jason, and for me it was a phenomenal experience. And I just tried to make every day all about him.
 
Weve gone out and weve practiced and weve prepared for this. But to come out and play on the course, and to see him play as well as he did ' I was speechless. And I was amazed at how well we played. We had two bad holes, but we still tied our personal best. It was phenomenal.
 
The pair scored better every day, shooting 90 the first day, trimming 10 strokes to get to 80 the second, and finishing with 79.
 
Father Keith, who happens to be on the Special Olympics board in Iowa, is overjoyed that his two sons enjoyed themselves so much.
 
When your children are out there playing and competing, and theyre playing as good as they know how to play. It would be one thing if you walked in and said, Hey they could have played better. But hey ' they played well. So that makes you proud, he said.
 
And there was another reason the experience resonated with Keith. Im also the coach, he said, so Im the one who taught him to play the game. It was nice to see that they listened and learned ' its not very many parents who get to see that happen all the time.
 
The men have been playing for about 10 years. The mom, Joelle, sat at home in the early stages while the men went to the course. But she decided, Well, why not? And then she took the big step ' she became a player, too.
 
Exactly! she said. I decided that if I was ever going to see my husband and my family between April and October, Id better learn how to play this game.
 
So, thats what I did. And I love it! We all get to experience being outdoors. And ' Im getting better.
 
And golf is the common bond that makes this a close-knit family. When they are playing at home, no one has a disability. No one notices that this family member or that family member might have a handicap. They are just four people, out for an afternoon stroll on the course.
 
Golf brings everybody together, explained Joelle. We have something to do where were out together and ' lets do it. You know, its fun, and we enjoy each other.
 
Its heartwarming to hear about such stories, about the PGA of America who sponsors the Special Olympics golf program, about the group Play Golf America. And its heartwarming to hear of people like the Pease family. Golf, they say, will be a major part of their family forever.
 
Oh, it better, said Jesse, the Special Olympian. It better. Absolutely. In fact, well get home and Im sure well play two or three times together next week.
 
Theres something truly special about this sport.
 
'Golf is what we have in common, said Jason. It is our connection and our chance to really interact. We like going to hockey games together, but that we can only do as spectators. Golf takes our relationship to a whole new level.'

'Golfing with Jason, says father Keith, has done so much for Jesse... involving him with peer groups, acceptance by friends, developing socialization skills, building his confidence and just creating such a strong bond among all of us.'