Castlegar golfer Al Cummings finished seventh in his division at the Special Olympics Canada National Golf Tournament at the University Golf Club in Vancouver held Wednesday, Oct. 2 to Sunday, Oct 6.
The tournament was three days of nine-hole competition and Cummings lead his division in scoring on the par-three holes after day one. His opening round of 55 was helped by pars on both the 124-yard 11th and 110-yard 16th and he found himself just one off the lead. On day two and three, he fired rounds of 66 and 63 to finish nine back of the leaders.
“His average is 52 and he finished 7th in the men’s group. He’s not so young either, he’s 47-years-old,” said Cummings’ coach, Ben Postmus, who travelled with Cummings to the tournament. “He was the second oldest guy there.”
Postmus said the weather was perfect for golf other than the practice round being rained out. There were five divisions and the M2 division that Cummings was in had an eight-player field with golfers from B.C., N.S., Sask. and Ont. The top player, Danny Peaselee of Manitoba, shot a total of 123 with rounds of 44-41-38 but Peaselee was not in Cummings’ division.
The biggest thing to remember with the tournament, said Postmus, is not to try and change the players’ games but to simply help them play their own game while having fun. That said, there was more than a hint of pride in his’ voice when discussing Cummings’ performance.
“I was his coach at the summer provincial games in Langley last year, where he won a silver medal,” said Postmus, who has known Cummings for a number of years. “We’ve tried to get together once a week in the last few months, sometime it happened and sometimes it didn’t. We go to either Champion Lakes or Castlegar.”
Cummings has called the Castlegar Golf Club his home course after moving to the city a couple of years ago; he used to live in Fruitvale on the same street as his coach. The two would often attend the Beaver Valley Nitehawks hockey games together, where Cummings would sometimes work in security. Cummings often has trouble remembering things but not when it comes to where he hits his golf ball.
“Al is down the middle, down the middle, down the middle and then chip it on and one-putt,” says his coach. “That’s what he did in the summer games to win the silver medal. He doesn’t it 240 [yards] but he hits it 150 to 180 and is pretty consistent. He gets around the course pretty quick.”
Postmus said as a coach, the athletes are their responsibility around the clock and though the days were long, the experience was enjoyable.
“You make sure they’re on their routines, take their meds, eat properly, stay hydrated, all that sort of stuff,” he said. “The facility, the organizing group was great. They took a bunch of notes on how to make next year’s event better but that will be hard to top. It was unbelievable.”
Organizers arranged to have Canadian Professional Golf Association members assist the golfers one day with different skills, such as chipping and putting. A couple of former LPGA players also made appearances, and a psychology expert was on hand to provide information about focussing on the mental part of the game, said Postmus. During the tournament, Postmus is relegated to following along and watching as Cummings competes.
“There’s no caddie,” said Postmus. “There’s a technical advisor and a scorekeeper with each group. I walk on the sidelines but am not allowed to coach while he’s playing. You’re just there as a cheerleader, basically.”
Cummings has also qualified for the Canadian Special Olympics Summer Games next July in Vancouver and Postmus said this event was great as a warm-up leading up to that event.