HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Next month, five of the Horry County Special Olympics Golfers and their unified partners will travel to the LPGA Golf Course in Galloway, New Jersey.
These golfers were selected to play for the Special Olympics National Invitational Golf Tournament representing South Carolina.
The Special Olympics golf team meets at the Prestwick Country Club every Sunday over eight weeks during the summer. The coach said their practices usually last three hours.
Jacob Miller, a Special Olympics Golfer selected for the national tournament, said it will be a fun experience.
Miller and four Special Olympics golfers and their unified partners qualified for the National Special Olympics Golf Tournament this year after lots of practice.
Miller said they practice a lot, and he enjoys a lot of things at practice.
“Hanging with my friends and playing golf and hitting a big drive,” he said.
Coach Van Abbott, the head coach of the golf team and sports director for all Horry County Special Olympics sports team and Miller’s father started the team almost 14 years ago and he said he’s proud to watch the program grow.
“We took the one parent and child that played and turned it into a whole team,” Abbott said.
Coach Van said at the end of every summer, the team competes in the state tournament and this year it’s on September 23rd at the Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina University.
He said it depends on how well you do at the state tournament that year that qualifies you for the National Tournament on the week of October 2nd.
“All the athletes that are qualified for nationals now will compete in the state tournament again to qualify again for next years,” Abbott said. “You know if they shoot the same kind of round they’ve been shooting.”
Coach Van said players have to receive a gold or silver medal in their division and shoot under the state scoring average which is 1-20, but he said this is easy for his kids.
He added that this isn’t the team’s first time travelling either.
“We’ve traveled like seven times to nationals,” Abbott said. ” We’ve been very successful. We’ve got a real good program going on. And again though… I just want to reiterate, that this particular one is more special just because they know they’re playing on a professional golf course.”
and Miller said the winner of the tournament receives a prize.
“Uh yes… medals… silver medals… no gold medals,” Miller said.
Coach Van said he’s proud of his golfers and enjoys watching them grow throughout the years. He said their hard work and love for the game doesn’t go unnoticed.
Coach Van said that if your team qualifies for the National Tournament though, all of the experiences are completely on you. He said they have to use their own funds for airfare, hotels, meals, and other shirts and supplies.
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Jackie LiBrizzi is a multimedia journalist at News13. Jackie is originally from Hamilton, New Jersey, and raised in Piedmont, South Carolina. Jackie joined the News13 team in June 2023 after she graduated as a student-athlete from the University of South Carolina in May 2023. Follow Jackie on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and read more of her work here.