In a year in which golf made its return to the Olympic Games, South Africa’s Special Olympics golfers once again showed how the game is still thriving at this level of competition.
The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organisation for people with intellectual disabilities or special needs, and it includes 4.7 million athletes in 169 countries.
Golf is a key sport in the Special Olympics programme and the PGA of South Africa supports this through its association with the Special Olympics SA National Golf Championship, which was played at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club last month.
‘The Special Olympics helps us to transform more lives through the power of sport, and golf in particular. It is a key focus area for the PGA of South Africa in terms of our vision of ‘Touching Lives through the Game of Golf’,’ said Ivano Ficalbi, the Chief Executive of the PGA of South Africa.
Over 160 golfers took part in the tournament, and the golfers were all from the greater Gauteng area.
The schools and centres that were represented included Cluny Farm, Dominican School for the Deaf, Irene Homes, Jiswa Special School, KwaThema Skills School, Logwood Village, Matshediso School, Pumla Special School, Randburg Clinic School, San Michele Home, Thabo Vuyo Special School, Tshegofatsong Special School, Unica Special School, and Usizolwethu Special School.
There was also a team of Special Olympics athletes representing Special Olympics Zimbabwe.
‘It’s such a rewarding tournament and I have to thank the PGA’s Martin Briede and Tracey Marais for all their hard work in ensuring the continued success of the entire programme,’ said Ficalbi.
‘Colour, gender and age is not important, so we had young and old, boys and girls, and men and women of all races participating alongside each other on equal footing according to ability.’
The golfers participated in various divisions, beginning with Level 1 (Skills Division) where they took part in five disciplines including the short putt, long putt, chip shot, pitch shot and wood shot.
At Level 2 and 3, a Special Olympics athlete played in a foursomes team format with a golfer without a disability.
They also took part in nine or 18 holes of golf on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
‘It’s been a momentous year for golf in terms of the return to the Olympic Games. But for us it’s equally important to highlight how golf has long been a key element of the Special Olympics, and how at this level the game is playing such an important role in people’s lives,’ said Ficalbi.
By Michael Vlismas
Photo credit: SAGA
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