Inspiring Special Olympics athletes tee off at national golf championship in South Jersey

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Special Olympics athletes tee off in South Jersey at golf championship
Athletes like Michael Dirkes are taking big swings towards greatness at the 22nd Annual Special Olympics North America Golf Championship.

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "Concentrate and eye on the ball," said Michael Dirkes.

That's the secret technique for a 42-year-old Special Olympics athlete from Ocean City, New Jersey.

Dirkes has been playing golf for more than two decades. And he gets to show off his skills at events like the 22nd Annual Special Olympics North America Golf Championship.

This week's tournament took place at Seaview Golf Club in Galloway Township. This course previously hosted the traveling event 10 years ago. Now, athletes are back in full swing in South Jersey.

"This is a great stage, not only from a competition perspective, but also to show what Special Olympics is about," said Craig Pippert, Special Olympics North America's Director of Sport Development.

Among the 52 accredited Special Olympics programs across the United States, 18 of them are represented at the three-day-long tournament. In addition, Special Olympics from Ontario, Canada, is also represented.

"We drove all the way from Ontario. It took us about 10 hours. We got here at two o'clock in the morning," said Franca De Stefano, whose son has been involved with Special Olympics for nearly 30 years.

The 22nd Annual Special Olympics North America Golf Championship will continue on Thursday, October 5. To learn more about Special Olympics and how to get involved, visit their website.

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