Though it felt a little hot for early fall, the Muscatine Special Olympics’s (MSO’s) golfers still enjoyed getting out and competing at their annual unified tournament at Muscatine Municipal Golf Course on Wednesday, September 11th. A fun day for MSO athletes and other golfers from the local community, the event gave everyone a chance to show off their skills and engage in some friendly competition.
A long time organizer of the tournament, MSO Director Jason Miller explained the rules for the competition. “ Our Annual Unified Golf Tournament pairs people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, competing and playing on the same course. We match athletes up with golf partners in three pairs, doing alternate shot hits for six or nine holes. At the end, we [tallied] up scores and [placed] gold, silver and bronze for each group.”
This year’s tournament proved immensely popular, with eighty-eight golfers and seventeen volunteers turning out for the day’s activities. This comes as no surprise to Miller, who has watched friendships blossom between many of the MSO golf athletes and community over the years the tournament has run. “ They really enjoy catching up with their friends and having a good time. There’s great comradery with everyone in these groups. The people volunteering get the mission and get what we’re doing. Special Olympics is leading the way in inclusion and socialization. We’ve been doing it for forty-nine years!” he reported.
This inclusion became readily apparent at the tournament, with MSO athletes shooting as well or better than their partners. As Miller put it, “I did receive a lot of feedback from golf partners saying how the athletes ‘carried them’, to which I’m not surprised. I see these athletes the most throughout the year, and I know what they are capable of, so there’s not a whole lot that surprises me anymore. . . . They have a lot of athletic skill and they have even better personalities.”
The MSO Unified Golf Tournament demonstrated many of the best qualities of the MSO athletes and the community members who support them. Though the MSO golf season has ended for this year, the MSO’s many other sports will continue its inclusive mission.