Special showing: Three local golfers medal

More than 2,000 athletes gathered in State College earlier this month to compete in the 49th annual Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games.

The four-day event featured competition in a wide range of sports, and Blair County was well-represented as three local athletes won gold medals for their outstanding performance in the golf competition.

The local gold-medal winners included Bobby Snively of Martinsburg, Tyler Thompson of Roaring Spring and Matt McCoy of Hollidaysburg.

McCoy’s father, Dave, has actually been the coach of the Blair County Special Olympics Golf Team for more than a decade.

“Our family has been involved with Special Olympics for a long time,” McCoy said. “Years ago, when I asked the organizers why there wasn’t a local golf team, they said, ‘If you’re willing to be the coach, we’ll set up a team.”’

McCoy accepted the challenge and would go on to lead that first team of athletes to the Summer Games in 2006. He has returned each year since. While many of his golfers have earned multiple awards over the years, this year marked the first time that every participating athlete took home a gold medal.

The 37-year old Snively, who is also an accomplished bowler, competed in the individual golf competition. He scored nine-hole rounds of 56 and 49 over two days to capture first place in competition that took place at the Centre Hills Country Club in State College.

Tyler Thompson, just 16 years old, participated in the Unified Partner competition where each Special Olympian plays with a partner — typically a family member or close friend — in an alternate-shot format.

Tyler’s partner in this event was his father, Jeff Thompson.

“It was so great, getting to compete with my son,” the elder Thompson said. “Golf is something that Tyler really enjoys, and this tournament is something that he focuses on and looks forward to every year.”

In addition to winning a gold medal at this year’s Special Olympics Summer Games, Tyler is also a member of the Central High School golf team, where he’ll be a junior this fall.

The third golfing gold medalist from Blair County this season was Hollidaysburg’s Matt McCoy.

The 37-year-old McCoy won his medal in the golfing “skills competition,” which consists of various golfing skills challenges, such as putting, chipping, iron shots, wood shots and sand shots.

This competition is also held over two days with athletes earning points based on their specific, individual performance in each challenge.

“Matt’s strongest category is his short game,” Dave McCoy said. “He accumulated many of his points through chipping and putting.”

Though this year’s team has been his most successful, McCoy is proud of all the athletes who have participated on the Blair County golf team over the past dozen years.

He was also quick to recognize Mike Stephens and Gerald Bloom, two current team members who were unable to compete in this most recent event.

“Golf is a difficult game, and it’s been wonderful to see what all these young men can accomplish,” McCoy said. “I also admire the sportsmanship that all Special Olympians show. You never see anyone booing at these events. The athletes are always cheering for their fellow competitors.”

McCoy spends a considerable amount of time throughout the year overseeing practice sessions with the team at places like Sylvan Hills, Blair County Driving Range and Golf-A-Round America, which offer their facilities at no cost to the organization.

While a few other events are held across the state for Special Olympians, the Pennsylvania Summer Games is definitely the premier sporting event conducted each year.

“The Special Olympics event in State College was absolutely fantastic. It was a thrill for Tyler and me to compete together,” Jeff Thompson said. “I was also so impressed by all of the volunteers who worked so hard to make this such a great event.”