The California Eagles at Haggin Oaks is a golf program for athletes of all ages with special needs. The program includes, but is not limited to those with Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Attention Deficit Disorder, Deaf, Blind, or recovering from Heart Attacks and Strokes. Recently, Kelli Corlett, Programming Director of Junior & Disabled Golf at Haggin Oaks, wrote about her experiences while working with the California Eagles.
What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think of golf? Many would respond, “Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Titleist, or Ping.” Although those are famous names, courses and brands within the sport, those are the last to come to my mind. Golf to me now, is about family, friends and relationships. It is an activity that all ages, genders, races and abilities can participate. I have come to realize over the past eight months that the game is so much more than putting a small white ball into a minuscule hole; much of this realization is due to my involvement with the California Eagles.
The California Eagles is a group geared toward those who are Down’s Syndrome, autistic, blind and/or deaf. Typically, there are approximately 70 participants who meet for 20 weeks, on Tuesday evenings for ninety minutes. They practice all elements of the game: putting, chipping, pitching, full swing, as well as on course play. These unique golfers have come together to form the most loving, kind and accepting family one could possibly imagine. They encourage one another, offer a helping hand and listen when someone needs to share a story.
I became particularly close with a few of the participants and can honestly say that I learned more from them in 20 weeks then I did in four years of being a collegiate athlete. Not only did they show me what golf was about, but also (and more importantly) life. The relationships that we create along the way are vital to our development as compassionate, humble individuals. Through their selfless actions, I have learned from these golfers how much I (we) can learn from one another and for that, I would like to say, “Thank you, California Eagles.”
“Friendship is a treasured gift and every time I talk with you, I feel as if I am getting richer and richer.” –Anonymous