A Look into the Special Olympics of Northern California

There are so many organizations, programs and groups from around the Sacramento area that receive support and assistance each year from Morton Golf Management. There are programs that are available to both juniors and adults, as well as those who are disabled.

According to its website, www.mortongolfmanagement.com:

“With the largest player development and lesson program west of the Mississippi, Morton Golf takes bringing golfers to the sport very seriously. We oversee all of the junior golf operations for three of our facilities (Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, Bing Maloney Golf Complex. William Land Golf Course), which include the creation and development of all program curriculums, scheduling, golf coaches, volunteers, and advertising in addition to hands-on instruction in many of the programs.”

Programs that Morton Golf Management oversees include:

  • The First Tee Junior Golf Camps.
  • The First Tee Year Round After School Program.
  • The First Tee Saturday Year Round Program.
  • Little Linker and Junior Linker Summer Playing Program.
  • Free Girls Golf Clinics.
  • Boys and Girls Club of Sacramento Golf Program.
  • PGA Junior Play League.
  • LPGA/USGA Girls Golf Program.
  • Latino Junior Golf Association.
  • American Heart Association/Saving Strokes Program.
  • Martin Achievement At-Risk Youth Program.
  • Play Golf America Day.

The Morton Golf Foundation, founded in 2010, is also a major supporter of golf programs in the area.

“The initial vision of the organization was to research and help supplement needy programs within the Sacramento Region that open up the game of golf to people from all walks of life,” the Morton Golf Foundation reports on its website, mortongolffoundation.org.

Special Olympics Northern California

Each year, Haggin Oaks and Morton Golf are the host of Special Olympics Northern California’s golf regional qualifying event.

It’s not only a qualifier for the State of California Special Olympics Games, but also offers Special Olympics athletes the opportunity to compete in a skills contest, with putting, chipping and driving stations that are set up at the facility for the day.

The date of this year’s event is to be announced.

Special Olympics Northern California is a nonprofit organization that “offers free year-round training and competition programs for 26,218 athletes who compete in more than 330 competitions in 14 sports annually,” according to its website, www.sonc.org.

“We offer year-round training and competitions in 14 sports for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The skills our athletes gain on the playing field carries over to the playing field of life.”

Special Olympics Northern California has held its golf regional at Haggin Oaks for several years.

“It’s really a fun opportunity for them to get out there and enjoy it. I know the Morton Golf Foundation is huge in helping with the event and helping with our program,” said Tyler Krochmal, Senior Manager of Public Relations and Communications for Special Olympics Northern California.

“I know they’ve become very close with a few of our athletes over the years, just from seeing them every year and participating with them. That’s been a very cool opportunity for everybody involved.”

The regional event features a golf tournament. Special Olympics athletes from Sacramento County and other nearby counties will be on hand, representing their respective teams and areas.

“We have staff that are there. Each team that is there has a respective coach that helps, as some athletes are out there playing 18 holes, and some are putting, chipping and driving, those kinds of individual skills,” said Krochmal. “We try to make it so that everyone, no matter the ability level, can participate in some way.

“It gives them a great opportunity to meet other athletes.”

According to its website, www.sonc.org:

“The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. This gives them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”

Track and field, basketball, soccer, bowling, softball, swimming, bocce, floor hockey, tennis, volleyball, flag football, cross county and alpine skiing (in select counties) are other community sports that are offered by Special Olympics Northern California. SONC offers community sports in 44 counties.

“SONC provides free sports training and competitions, health services and education programs to individuals with intellectual disabilities ages 2 and up,” its website said.

With so many sports offerings, there is something for Special Olympics athletes to do on a year-round basis, said Krochmal.

“One of the things that we like the most for our athletes is they can do as much as they want, or they can pick one sport if they want,” said Krochmal. “There’s really something almost every week, almost every day, really, in a normal year.”

Special Olympics Northern California “enriches the lives of more than 26,218 children and adults with intellectual disabilities and their communities in Northern California through sports, education, and athlete health,” according to www.sonc.org. “All of our programs are at no cost to the participants.”

“SONC relies on the support of 28,159 volunteers and funding from individuals, organizations, corporations, government and foundations,” its website said.

Special Olympics is one of the many programs that Morton Golf Foundation helps out and supports.

According to its website, mortongolffoundation.org:

“In 2008, the owners of Morton Golf LLC decided as part of their community outreach to create a 501c3 charitable entity to financially help underserved golf organizations that are in need as well as programs for the disabled and youth within the Sacramento Region.”

The SONC golf regional qualifying event at Haggin Oaks – a 36-hole facility that features the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course, Arcade Creek Course, the lighted Haggin Oaks driving range and learning center, Haggin Oaks Academy Holes, MacKenzie Putting Course and Player Performance Studio – is open to Special Olympics athletes of all ages.

“Haggin Oaks has been such a great partner for us and our athletes just love going, year after year. I know we all can’t wait to be back out there with everybody again,” said Krochmal. “Our athletes absolutely love it.”

Golf is one of the most popular sports offered by SONC, and it’s continuing to grow with the numbers of Special Olympics athletes playing, said Krochmal.

“The event at Haggin Oaks is one of our signature golf events every year,” said Krochmal. “We have athletes that have gone every year and have formed real relationships with the coaches and the foundation members and people, which has been really cool to see.

“That’s what it’s really all about is those relationships. Not just our athletes having fun and enjoying it, but everybody being impacted by it. That’s what it’s all about.”

California Eagles Program

The California Eagles, a nonprofit organization, is one of the many golf programs that receives support from the Morton Golf Foundation.

It’s a program, available to people of all ages with special needs, that was founded in 1983 by Dick McShane and Lainie Case.

Participants in the program – part of First Tee – Greater Sacramento – have either physical or mental disabilities.

For more information More information about Special Olympics Northern California is available at www.sonc.org, at info@sonc.org, on Facebook/Twitter @SONorCal, on Instagram @SpecialOlympicsNCA, or by calling (925) 944-8801.

* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.

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