This article was submitted Katrina Hassman, from Park Ridge, Illinois. Katrina is a Unified partner and is attending the Special Olympics USA Games as part of the Youth Leadership Experience (YLE). YLE is an opportunity where Unified pairs are placed in a variety of volunteer roles during the USA Games.
The Unified Golf group from Team Illinois (#TeamSOILL) cannot wait to shoot their shot. And that wait is almost up. The team, including these golfers, heads to the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida in a few days, with the Games beginning on June 5.
Golf is one of two sports that #TeamSOILL will participate in that is Unified – where team members consist of both those with and without an intellectual disability.
Although golf is typically a serene sport, the Unified golfers liven it up with their fun team dynamic and unique personalities.
Made up of two Special Olympics Illinois athletes, two Unified partners, and one coach, the #TeamSOILL Unified Golf team is ready to show off their skills.
This group has a wide range of both golfing and USA Games experience. Mike Malcolm has 40 years of golfing behind him. However, Lisa Wisniewski, the team’s coach, is a four-time USA Games coach, surpassing each of the male team members, with her experience in attending the USA Games. Allen Platt has immense skill despite golfing for the first time just five years ago.
The team has been working hard in preparation for the USA Games. Practicing on local golf courses, at the driving range, as well as using a golf simulator, have been great ways to keep their skills sharp. Additionally, each team member has been putting in time for individual practice. Platt has spent time strengthening his legs to improve his technique on long strokes. Todd “T-Money” Tomaszewski has been finding time to golf with his friends for extra practice. Todd “T-Swizzle” Mallo has been eating healthier to make sure he is in the best shape for the competition. This will surely benefit them in Orlando.
Attending the USA Games is an exciting endeavor for all participants, and the Unified Golf team has a lot to look forward to. Malcolm is most excited about the camaraderie and Platt, his partner, is eager for the challenge of the competition. “T-Money” can’t wait to show off his skills and is grateful that the USA Games has given him the opportunity to keep golfing at a high level. The other half of the Todd/Todd duo, “T-Swizzle”, is looking forward to meeting the other athletes, and Wisniewski is ready for some good, tough competition. Overall, the team is most looking forward to the chance to go for gold.
The road to the USA Games has been memorable for everyone. Wisniewski recalls all of the time they spent together during training weekend and the bizarre conversations that came out of it. Malcolm has made so many great memories with the team that he couldn’t choose just one to be his favorite. Platt said that he will never forget all of the jokes made while on the course. “T-Money” and “T-Swizzle” share the same favorite memory of winning the state golf tournament and “T-Money” will never forget when he scored a hole-in-one. The team says they can’t wait to make many more memories together in Florida.
To learn more about #TeamSOILL and the delegation headed to Orlando in just a few days, please visit soill.org/usa-games.