Sunday, July 1, 2007

Joy Overflowing

Golf is one of my favorite pastimes, and today I got to add another reason why I like it so much.

No, I didn't get a hole-in-one, or hit a 200-yard drive, right down the middle of the fairway.

Instead, I saw there was a need for volunteers to help out at this weekend's Special Olympics of Oregon and their Summer Games. And listed among all the events was helping out as a forecaddie for the Golf competition, to be held out at the Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks.

Up until this week, I'd never heard of a forecaddie, so off I went to They define a forecaddie as "a caddie positioned on the course at a distance from the tee or a given lie, to locate balls after they are hit." I thought, "I can do that!", so I filled out the online volunteer form and waited for a response.

Not too long afterwards, I received an email saying, "Thank you for volunteering. We have you volunteering on Sunday from 1-4pm." I still wasn't 100% sure of what I was supposed to do, but decided to figure it out once I got there. And besides, I was coming in as part of the last shift, so by then, they should have the whole "where & how" all figured out, right? (Sunday was Day 2 of the golf event).

They recommended getting there 15-30 minutes prior to your start time in order to check in, and receive any training. I arrived at 12:30, checked in, and then was told to stand at the turn for further instructions. For all you non-golfers, the turn is where the golfers finish up the 9th hole, and have the option to continue on to the back 9 of the course to play 18 holes, or finish, just playing 9 holes.

While I was waiting to see if they needed me to relieve one of the scorekeepers, I watched one of the groups of athletes approach the green on the 9th hole. In order to reach the green on this particular hole, you have to shoot over a small pond. Though not very big, anytime you have to hit over water, it can be a little disconcerting. I know I always pull out my junkiest balls that I don't care about, because it's quite likely they will be going for a swim. Sports psychologist and golf guru Dr Bob Rotella, author of "Golf is not a game of Perfect" would say that's a defeatist attitude. I need to visualize where the ball is going to go, and if I say it's going to go in the pond, it'll go in the pond.

Anyway, in this group was an athlete I'll call "H" for how happy she was. H was getting ready to hit her approach shot to the green, and the woman I was standing next to, said, "I hope she does okay. She had kinda of a rough start today, and was afraid she wouldn't be able to compete in the tournament." But she appeared to have put that all behind her, because she lined up behind her ball, sized up the pin, swung, and her ball sailed right over the pond, landing beautifully on the green. And if that wasn't enough, she proceeded to 2-putt, to finish out the hole. She was so ecstatic, she could barely contain herself. In fact, she gave new meaning to the phrase, "Jumping for joy!"

Then it was time to begin my forecaddie career. I was assigned to the 14th hole, a fairly straight Par 4 whose left-hand side contains a nice long pond. My job was to stand about at the 150-yard marker, and as the definition said, "watch where the balls land", so as to help the athletes find their ball, and in essence, "keep everyone moving".

For the most part, I just stood there getting a nice tan, as most of the athletes stayed in the fairway. A few sent their ball into the pond, and one gentleman hit his into the deep rough, but thanks to my keen eyes :-), they actually found it--or they may have found someone else's, but either way, they weren't down a ball, just an out-of-bounds stroke...

I felt really sorry for one athlete, because their first shot was a nice straight one, right down the fairway, about 50 yards from the 150 marker. Then, on their second shot, their ball HIT the 150 marker, dead-on, shot off to the side, and right into the pond! You know, if they'd been trying to hit the marker...

Anyway, each and every one of these athletes were amazing, and just the fact that they were out there, blew me away! Their joy and enthusiasm for life, in spite of the many challenges they must face every day, was truly inspiring.

They finished a little earlier than when my shift was to end, and the people in charge said, "If you don't have to hurry off, you should stay for the awards ceremony. It's something to behold." So I stayed, and it was well worth it. All the athletes and their friends & families gathered in this big tent they had set up for the occasion, and they began. Each place finisher was called, and were given their award by an officer from the Portland Police Force. Then when all the awards & medals were handed out, pictures were taken and smiles abounded.

And the best part? You remember "H"? Her team won the gold medal in their division :-) I congratulated her afterwards, and the look on her face was one I'll never forget: Joy, in its purest form.

Today was a great day!

Blessings friends, K~


Melinda said...

It sounds like a fabulous experience!

Katie said...

I'm so glad that you enjoyed today! I'm also glad that you were able to be out on a golf course again. Maybe next time you will get to play golf.