Former Otsego teacher/coach John Zach, a LYNX Golf Course member, gives advice to one of the Special Olympic athletes during the chipping portion of the skills competition. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)

LYNX Golf Course hosts Special Olympics event

By: 
Jason Wesseldyk

Gabe Porter is well known at the LYNX Golf Course.
A 2012 Otsego High School graduate, Porter has a passion for golf and can often be seen at the LYNX honing his skills alongside his father Dave.
“They are two very special people to us here at the LYNX,” course general manager Jim Szilagyi said of the Porters. “They play four to five times a week as Gabe loves to play golf. They play a two-person scramble together at night.”
And Porter, 24, has a little added incentive to bring his “A” game each time he steps onto the course.
“We have a deal that when Gabe makes a natural birdie he gets a lemonade on us,” Szilagyi said. “Some weeks we run low on lemonade.”
In addition to his love of golf, Porter also has a love of helping others. It was that desire to lend a helping hand that led him to approach Szilagyi three years ago and ask about hosting a golf tournament to benefit Special Olympics Michigan.
Porter has Down syndrome and knows first-hand the good Special Olympics Michigan does for special-needs individuals throughout the state.
Szilagyi readily agreed to the request, leading to the birth of the Special Olympics Michigan Golf Scramble and Skills Competition, which celebrated its third year on Monday, July 24.
“It’s a great opportunity for The LYNX give back while ​contributing​ to the community,” Szilagyi said.
The event started with a 9-hole golf scramble, followed by the Special Olympic athletes testing their skills in four events: closest to the pin, chipping, putting and straightest drive.
“Every time we’ve hosted this event we see great examples of great golf skills and the shear joy these athletes display when they have a chance to participate,” Szilagyi said. “Some are quite good.”
The day concluded with an awards ceremony that saw each Special Olympian receive a medal.
“That’s a special time for us,” Szilagyi said of the awards ceremony. “Their happiness when they receive their award is real and their joy sincere. It is a very moving part of the day and something everyone should witness.”
This year’s event raised more than $17,300, with additional donations still expected. That brings the three-year total raised during the event to more than $30,000.
“We had great support from local businesses in Allegan, Otsego and Plainwell,” Szilagyi said. “Big and small donations came in for the raffle, golf outing, tee sponsorships and donations. The amount we raised this year is a testament to how the event has grown.  
“We are in awe of the generous contributions by so many and very thankful they care as much as we do.”
In addition to the local businesses that contributed to the event, Szilagyi was grateful for those who participated in the scramble.
“We mostly hear about how much fun they had participating,” Szilagyi said of the scramble participants. “The food is very good. The course is in great shape.
“We also got a lot of positive comments about The LYNX hosting this event.  ​We were very thankful for the nice compliments, but it really is about the Special Olympic Athletes for us. We’re already looking forward to hosting the 2018 event at The LYNX.”
 

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