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South Valley Riverton Journal

Hundreds of middle school students swing away at unified golf kick-off

Sep 03, 2022 01:10PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

About 235 students from eight Jordan School District middle schools tried learning golf skills at this past spring’s Special Olympics kick-off of unified golf at Glenmoor Golf Course.

Now, 40 students are getting a chance to develop their skills this summer as they compete in four junior PGA unified golf teams.

Unified golf is an opportunity for students with and without disabilities to play golf together.

It came about when South Jordan’s Glenmoor Golf Course PGA professional Darci Olsen approached Courtnie Worthen, Unified Champion Schools manager with Special Olympics Utah, to discuss adding unified golf to the unified sports program. Unified sports fosters empathy and inclusive opportunities for all students.

Together, Olsen and Worthen received a grant from Special Olympics North America through the accessible golf associations to begin the program.

The program, which also involved South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey, was developed this past school year.

First lady Abby Cox, former Gov. Gary Herbert and assorted superheroes and cartoon characters helped to kick off the program, where students received a quick lesson in using a golf club, swinging, putting and enjoying the game in each other’s company.

Elk Ridge Middle School special education teacher Amanda Mair said her students rotated in the kick-off’s skill activities.

“It was a fun activity,” she said. “It was a little chilly, but I think the kids had a great time.”

It was a bit warmer than the original kick-off date, during which it snowed, Worthen said, who added the event was “incredible.”

“Golf is a life-long sport. We wanted to introduce it to younger athletes as we don’t have any programs offered in the middle schools,” she said. “By making golf accessible, students are not only learning about golf, but also having that experience in teamwork and sportsmanship, and in developing friendships.”

Lindsay Auld with Jordan Education Foundation said the event was “awesome.”

“Watching the kids get excited about trying the skills and learning how to swing, how to putt, and having adaptive units there to help them, really helped them get a sense of the sport and how they could be successful if they joined a team,” she said. “The students were really excited to be a part of this.”

Amongst the equipment provided to help make it easier for the students were pool noodles on the putting green to guide the ball toward the hole.

Jordan Education Foundation Director Mike Haynes said that unified golf will be ongoing.

“They will compete in the Utah Open celebrity skills challenge,” he said. “This was the result of a collaboration of Special Olympics, Glenmoor Golf Course and Jordan Education Foundation. It’s all about the inclusion and it is so valuable to our community to create opportunities of inclusion for all kids.”