Special Olympics Event Has First Ace

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Special Olympics golfers from 26 U.S. programs proudly stepped to the medal platform in recognition of their spirited three rounds of competition during the 2003 Special Olympics Golf National Invitational Tournament, at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The tournament featured 158 golfers with mental retardation competing in one of five levels of competition on the award-winning North and South Courses, Sept. 14-16.
 
'All that is good about the game was clearly demonstrated at this year's Special Olympics tournament,' said PGA of America president M.G. Orender, who was on hand for the final round and the award ceremonies. 'Special Olympics golfers are passionate in their competitive spirit, yet encourage each other with each shot. The game has brought such joy to these golfers and their families that we are proud to be a partner in developing this sport for Special Olympics programs across the country.'
 
Final Results:
 
Kevin EricksonIn Level 5, 18-Hole Individual Stroke Play, Kevin Erickson of Green Bay, Wis., shot 79 the final day for a total of 239 to win the gold medal in his division. Erickson's closest pursuer was David Bueche of Concord, Calif., who made a charge on the front nine with a score of 36, but finished with a total of 81 for a silver medal total of 255.
 
Erickson made Special Olympics history when he shot a Special Olympics record low round of 76 and a hole in one on the sixth hole of the South Course. 'I played pretty good today and this event has been great. Golf lets me get out in the fresh air and have fun,' said Erickson.
 
Keith Peabody of Wilmington, Mass., shot a 53 for an 8-stroke win and a gold medal total of 153 in the Level 4, 9-Hole Individual Stroke Play competition. 'Golf is important and exciting for me. I played great today and made some new friends this week. It was a fun tournament,' said Peabody.
 
The father/son team of Mike Higgs and John Richard Higgs (father) of Caledonia, Mich., shot a final round 87 for a gold medal total of 265 in Level 3, Alternate Shot Team Play. In Level 3, golfers compete in an 18-hole format that teams a Special Olympics player with a non-Special Olympics player of similar ability.
 
In Level 2, Alternate Shot Team Play, golfers compete in a nine-hole alternate shot format that teams a Special Olympics player with a non-Special Olympics player of more advanced skill and knowledge. The father/son team of John and Buzz (father) Vanderwerff of Greensboro, N.C., who led their division since their opening round, shot a 51 to win by one stroke with a gold medal total of 144.
 
In Level 1, Individual Skills, golfers are tested in six skills that simulate play including: full swing tests with a wood and iron, short game tests with pitch and chip shots, and putting a long putt and short putt. Brian Drexler of Plantsville, Conn., led after the first round and finished today with a 68 for a three-day total of 191 for the gold medal in his division.
 
The PGA of America and USGA are presenting sponsors of the Special Olympics Golf National Invitational Tournament for the fourth year. Special Olympics USA national partners Cingular Wireless and M&M's brand chocolate candy also add their support as corporate sponsors.
 
Since The PGA first introduced golf to the Special Olympics in 1988, the Association has donated more than $200,000 and countless hours by PGA Professionals for the training of Special Olympics golfers and their coaches. During the past decade, thousands of Special Olympics athletes have participated in golf clinics, training programs and competitions in the United States and in more than 20 countries around the world.
 
The United States Golf Association has supported Special Olympics by donating over $1 million to the movement's golf initiatives since 1992. In addition, the USGA also acts in an advisory capacity for the golf program.
 
Special Olympics is an international year-round program of sports training and competition for individuals with mental retardation. More than one million athletes in more than 150 countries train and compete in 26 summer and winter sports. According to Special Olympics, more than 8,000 Special Olympics golfers from 17 countries competed in 2002.