Local golfers to compete at Special Olympics

By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Unlike most Olympians, Cyndi Saffold has competed in multiple sports throughout the years.

Saffold has participated in floor hockey, basketball and golf at the Games. 

This year, the 30-year-old from Brown’s Valley is hoping to medal at the Special Olympics Northern California and Nevada golf tournament on Monday, Sept. 17 at Haggin Oaks in Sacramento. The event goes from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Saffold competes for the Placer/Nevada County “Motherlode” Golf Team. The team consists of eight athletes and eight coaches and has been gearing up for the Games for more than a month. 

The coaches and players, who have been practicing every Thursday at Black Oak and the Ridge in Auburn alternate on each shot.

Saffold is paired up with Greg Kendrick, a first-year coach from North Auburn.

Saffold said Kendrick is the weak link to their team.

“He has his moments,” she said, “but I save him.”

Kendrick believes the team’s chances of medaling are good, but win or lose, they’re still having fun. 

“We get more out of this than we give,” said Kendrick, who is enjoying coaching.

Saffold has been participating in Special Olympics since she was a freshman in high school 

“It’s fun,” she said. “You get to meet new people.”

Saffold’s favorite part of golfing is teeing off with her driver and putting. 

On Thursday, her team spent a good half hour at the driving range before teeing off at the Ridge. Both Black Oak and the Ridge allow the team to use their courses free of charge and provide free range balls. 

Saffold and Kendrick aren’t the only ones on the team eyeing medals. 

“We’re all going for medals,” said Glen Wheeler, the “head coach” from Grass Valley, who has been involved in Special Olympics for 15 years. 

Last year Wheeler and his teammate, Shanna James, took home gold. They’ll be paired up again this year. 

Wheeler first got involved with the Games because his son, Dan, has autism. 

He’s continued his involvement because “it’s good for the soul.”

His wife, Jackie, teaches track, swimming and cross country.

The opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics golf tournament take place on Sept. 17 at 8:30 a.m. An athlete will run up to the stage with a torch to let the Games begin. 

Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel