Special Olympics Wisconsin returns to socially distant, safe action with Southern State Golf Tournament

September 19, 2020 Blog, Events, Featured, Press

Unified Partner Jenne Hohn, Athlete Ryon Knodl, Athlete Tyler Derringer, Coach Scott Lewis of West Allis Special Olympics (L to R)

Madison, Wis. (PRESS RELEASE) – 27 athletes and Unified partners competed in Special Olympics Wisconsin’s first sports tournament in six months when they participated in the Southern State Golf Tournament on Sunday, September 13 at Kestrel Ridge Golf Course in Columbus.

The tournament was Special Olympics Wisconsin’s first since cancelling all events on March 11 due to COVID-19. It was also the first event in Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Return to Play Plan, which gradually and safely reintroduces social distancing-friendly activities with safeguards in place.

For the participating athletes and families, it was a long-awaited moment that brought joy in a way only a Special Olympics Wisconsin event can. It also helped people forget about the pandemic, if for just a day.

“It was just thrilling when they saw each other for the first time. The smiles started and never ended. That’s how awesome Special Olympics is. It’s just like one big family.” – Anne Zydowsky, mother of athlete Jacob Zydowsky

“The Southern State Golf Tournament was such a fun event. We had lots of comments from athletes and families who were just saying, ‘thank you so much for putting this on,’” said Nicole Christensen, athletic director for South Central Wisconsin and the event organizer. “Everyone was so happy to be back at a Special Olympics Wisconsin event so that made it an extra joyful environment.”

Ryon Knodl of West Allis Special Olympics

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is and always will be Special Olympics Wisconsin’s number one priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, over time Special Olympics Wisconsin came to recognize how its athletes have been hit especially hard by this pandemic.

Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes and best friends Jacob Zydowsky of Pardeeville and David Hagens of Madison had been looking forward to this moment for a long time. The friendly rivals have been able to talk by telephone during the pandemic but this was their first time being able to see each other in person. The two are so close that Hagens even asked Zydowsky’s mom, Anne, to be his caddie for the tournament.

“We had lots of comments from athletes and families who were just saying, ‘thank you so much for putting this on.’ Everyone was so happy to be back at a Special Olympics Wisconsin event so that made it an extra joyful environment.” – Nicole Christensen, athletic director for South Central Wisconsin and the event organizer

In a rivalry that seems to go back and forth year by year, Zydowsky earned the gold this time around. While both of the competitive athletes were going for gold at the tournament, it was far from the only concern.

“It was just thrilling when they saw each other for the first time. The smiles started and never ended,” said Jacob’s mom, Anne Zydowsky. “That’s how awesome Special Olympics is. It’s just like one big family.”

For many athletes like Hagens and Zydowsky, Special Olympics is their main way to stay connected, active and engaged. Social distancing has sometimes meant social isolation. Maintaining health and physical fitness has also been difficult for many of the athletes.

Marquette dental students volunteering at the Special Smiles Oral Health Education Station

In light of this, Special Olympics Wisconsin spent several months conducting extensive research and planning to find a solution that would balance the safety of its athletes and communities with the social, emotional and physical well-being of its athletes.

Special Olympics Wisconsin adopted a four-phased approach to safely returning to activities for local programs that want to participate. The approach limits the number of people at gatherings and requires strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.

In keeping with these new protocols, the State Golf Tournament also included a modified Special Smiles Oral Health Education Station. In lieu of the dental screenings typically offered at a Special Smiles station before COVID-19, Marquette dental students volunteered to provide athletes with important information about dental health and hygiene.

Athlete Jacob Zydowsky of Silver Lake Special Olympics in Portage (center) watches the Virtual Ceremony at home with his parents, Ed and Anne Zydowsky

The tournament also included a Virtual Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, September 15 via Zoom so that participants and supporters could celebrate their accomplishments in a safe and socially distant manner.

Beyond this golf tournament, many athletes across the state are currently participating in virtual competitions in bocce, golf individual skills, cornhole and/or punt, pass and kick.

2020 Southern State Golf Tournament Results:

  • Division 1 – Level 4 Individual Stroke Play 9
    • 2nd Place – with a score of 51, from 6-12 West Madison, David Hagens
    • 1st Place – with a score of 47, from 6-06 Silver Lake, Jacob Zydowsky
  • Division 2 – Level 4 Individual Stroke Play 9
    • 3rd Place – with a score of 63, from 6-12 West Madison, Andrew Ihland
    • 2nd Place – with a score of 54, from 6-44 Columbus, Andy Gay
    • 1st Place – with a score of 49, from 6-12 West Madison, Jake Vanderbloemen
  • Division 3 – Level 4 Individual Stroke Play 9
    • 4th Place – with a score of 91, from 6-12 West Madison, Mark Vroman
    • 3rd Place – with a score of 71, from 7-04 St Coletta, Owen Mahan
    • 2nd Place – with a score of 69, from 6-12 West Madison, Michael McGiverin
    • 1st Place – with a score of 67, from 8-14 West Allis, Tyler Derringer
  • Division 4 – Level 2 Alternate Shot Team Play (Unified)
    • 3rd Place – with a score of 72, Team Girl Power from 6-44 Columbus with Candice Harvey and Kim Musel
    • 2nd Place – with a score of 61, Team Vikings from 6-12 West Madison with Steven Clerico and Kyle Kittel
    • 1st Place – with a score of 50, Team Werner from 8-33 West Bend with Ben & Jeff Werner
  • Division 5 – Level 2 Alternate Shot Team Play (Unified)
    • 3rd Place – with a score of 90, Team Angels from 6-12 West Madison with Alison Mushett and Renae Beier
    • 2nd Place – with a score of 66, Team Spartans from 6-12 West Madison with Grant and Chad Thom
    • 1st Place – with a score of 65, Team Country Boys from 6-44 Columbus with Jamie Kasmiski and Randy Dodd
  • Division 6 – Level 2 Alternate Shot Team Play (Unified)
    • 3rd Place – with a score of 79, Team J&K from 6-12 West Madison with Jarred Temple and Kate Essex
    • 2nd Place – with a score of 71, Team Dominators from 6-12 West Madison with James Wood and Jody Alexander
    • 1st Place – with a score of 65, Team Mandalorian from 8-14 West Allis with Ryon Knodl and Jenne Hohn

Subscribe to Inspire!

Join our mailing list to receive regular updates!

News
Categories

Proudly Supported By:

Kwik Trip Law Enforcement Torch Run