Golfing for Gold in Decatur

Nearly 600 athletes and 18 Unified Partners competed in the 2019 Outdoor Sports Festival over September 7 and 8. This event, which serves as the state finals for those competing in golf and softball, took place at Rotary Park and Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur, Illinois.

For Special Olympics Illinois athlete Allen Platt and his Unified Partner Mike Malcom, this also served as their Unified golf debut. The pair qualified for Outdoor Sports Festival earlier in July at the Region E competition at Chicago Heights East Golf Course.

Mike began coaching for the Grundy-county based agency Special Connections 16 years ago when his daughter, Katie (who has special needs), expressed interest in participating. Just starting out, the agency was in need of support with coaches and chaperones.

“I started coaching track and field… basketball,” Mike says. “As we grew, more people stepped up to help out so I devoted my time to golf.”

He also currently serves as an assistant coach for bocce and bowling.

Allen joined the agency six years ago and Mike became his golf skills, coach. He progressed to three-hole, then six-hole, and now Unified golf. When it came down to finding a partner, Mike was a natural fit.

“I was Allen’s caddie for three and six-hole, so we had gotten to know each other really well.”

Mike stepped into an advisory role in addition to coach. The pair were invited to play in the Region E Golf Outing in July where they qualified for Outdoor Sports Festival.

There, Katie, who also serves as a Global Messenger, was asked to give a speech to promote Unified Sports.

In Decatur, Allen and Mike also proved to be victorious bringing home the gold medal.

“I had been to Outdoor Sports Festival for a number of years from coaching skills to caddying, but being a Unified Partner was priceless.”

Mike, who has been a bowler for 49 years, has seen his share of partners and teammates but says being a Unified Partner is second to none. Previously, Mike also competed as a Unified Bocce partner as well.

“Having a partner who can lean on you and not judge or criticize you… is great.”

While he feels the competitive pressure from his partner and does not want to let them down, he finds the experience beyond rewarding.

“I will never turn down an athlete when they need advice about any sport or life situation.”

What’s next for Mike and Allen?

“We have already set our sights on defending our championship again next year!”