The California Eagles

Today’s blog entry was written by Morton Golf’s Kelli Corlett, Junior & Disabled Golf Program Director at Haggin Oaks, and first appeared in the Morton Golf Foundation’s Annual Review.

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

More About The California Eagles
The California Eagles 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.
The purpose of the program is to give persons with special needs the opportunity to learn and enjoy the great game of golf. The ultimate goal is to have all of the athletes play golf well enough so they can participate with friends, family and others.
The California Eagles began in 1983. Dick McShane, Golf Professional at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, was asked by the parents of five special needs eight year olds to teach them the game of golf. Today the program continues with approximately 70 participants. In 2003 a second group was started in the south area of Sacramento at William Land Park Golf Course.
The California Eagles meet from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. every Tuesday at Haggin Oaks, and from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. every Monday at Land Park. The program runs from mid-April to mid-September, registration being open throughout the entire season.
In addition to weekly golf instruction there are several tournaments, putting contests and social events. Golf clubs are provided for each athlete. The Eagles also participate in the Special Olympics Northeast Region Golf Tournament at Haggin Oaks.
Golf instruction is provided by volunteer coaches assisted by Haggin Oaks Golf Professionals. The teaching/coaching is geared to the level of communication skills and talents of each participant in the program. Using The First Tee curriculum, the coaches teach life enhancing values, including honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, courtesy, confidence, responsibility, perseverance and judgment through the game of golf.
The California Eagles Golf Program continues to grow thanks to the generosity of Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, William Land Golf Course, The Morton Golf Foundation, The First Tee of Greater Sacramento and the dedication of our volunteer coaches and golf professionals.
Contact Janie Bucher – (916) 765-0870 or click HERE to email for more information or to sign up. (

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