Area 7 hosts golf tournament Saturday

Published 12:05 am Sunday, May 23, 2010

NATCHEZ — Last weekend, Rosekita Johnson won the silver and gold medal for the Area 7 Special Olympics swim team at the state games in Biloxi. Johnson also has a good game on the basketball court.

But for one Saturday every May, Johnson is able to play her favorite sport of all.

“I like golf a whole lot. I can hit the ball very far,” Johnson said.

Johnson was one of nine Special Olympics athletes that got to take part in the Mississippi Special Olympics Area 7 Golf Tournament Saturday at Duncan Park. The tournament pairs four-person teams with a Special Olympics golfer for a round on the green.

“I hit the ball into the hole three times. It was fun,” Johnson said.

Johnson teamed up with United Mississippi Bank, which shot a 68 overall. Agnes Holloway, vice president marketing director at UMB, said she also looks forward to the tournament every year.

“This is my tournament that I get to play in, and I don’t let any of our good golfers play in it,” Holloway.

“You never play golf until you play with a special child. You learn truly what the game is all about. You don’t have to get mad or throw the clubs, because whatever you do, you’re perfect in their eyes.”

Holloway said she enjoys cutting up with Johnson when they’re out playing together.

“She tells me I’m funny,” Holloway said.

And Johnson responded with a friendly jab at her playing partner.

“She’s a little bit funny, but not much,” Johnson joked. “She nice. I enjoy playing with her. She’s a good person.”

Johnson is not the only Special Olympics athlete that looks forward to playing golf every May. Tony Gamberi, who played with team Walmart, said he practiced every Saturday this month to prepare for the tournament.

“They taught me how to hit the ball and how to putt. Putting’s easy,” Gamberi said.

And all of the time spent practicing translated well in the tournament, Gamberi said.

“I did fine. I liked playing with Walmart, they’re fun to play with. It was hot out, so I had to drink water,” he said.

Over 100 people showed up to play in the tournament, and Area 7 director Tommie Jones said those numbers speak volumes about the community’s caring and understanding.

“It’s the athletes that draw people out here. You say ‘special athlete’ and it draws them out every time,” Jones said.

“No one’s here for bragging rights, they’re here to have a good time, make the athletes smile and do something special for these specials kids.”

In fact, so many people are getting turned away from the tournament each year that, starting next May, there will be a morning and afternoon round.

“It thrills me to know that people are interested in these athletes and allowing them the opportunity to accomplish something in different sports, since this is what funds us,” Jones said.