The intellectual and developmental disability (I/DD) community is celebrating a new milestone towards greater inclusion within the world of sports. In mid-July, history was made at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in North Carolina.
Over the course of three days, players with various forms of disability competed in the United States Golf Association’s (USGA’s) inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open Golf Tournament, reserved solely for individuals with disabilities
The Set Up
The landmark tournament hosted ninety-six players in a course fifty-four holes long in total. Age categories ranged from mid-teens up to eighty years old, and competitors played by the USGA rules, modified to encompass a wide range of disabilities.
To adopt a fair scoring system, the tournament organizers divided players into eight sub-categories based on the type of disability. Organizers arranged four sets of tees, with each player adapting their game accordingly.
Players – both amateur and professional – arrived from eleven countries and twenty-nine U.S. states to compete.. No prize money was allotted to the winner, as per the rules established by the USGA. To become a contestant, prospective players were required to present either a government-issued disability certificate or a WR4GD Pass, which provides medical proof of disability.
In the end, two trophies were awarded, each to the low men’s and women’s scorers. Organizers, players, and spectators agree that the golf tournament is the beginning of a new era in the sport and a return to what the game of golf is meant to be. There is hope that the U.S. Adaptive Open Golf Tournament will inspire other communities to host a free golf tournament to foster continuous inclusion in sports for those with physical and intellectual disabilities.
A Dawning of Greater Respect
The event also triggered a moment of epiphany for many, as people embraced their golf skills and showcased their inspirational drive. There were expressions of awe among most attendees, with some expressing excitement at the potential for this kind of event. Many players also expressed surprise that they could play the game so well. As a result, the sense of inclusion was palpable, felt by competitors, tournament organizers, sponsors, and spectators.
Onlookers marveled at the golfers’ high level of professionalism and skill. One remarkable player wowed the crowd by ‘striping’ a 260-yard drive straight down the center – only one small example of the magical moments that occurred.
Organizations like Independent Living Association (ILA) in New York know that the sky’s the limit for many individuals with I/DD. Through continuous support and opportunities for skill building, the possibilities are endless for Individuals to reach their full potential.