Alaska's Stortz tees off in Washington
Willows Run golf course in Redmond, Washington, was a great spot to be on Monday.
The 2018 Special Olympics USA Summer Games teed off at Eagles Talon course. Eagles Talon provides four sets of tee boxes of varying difficulty and Palmer's Garrett Stortz is all in, as he’s swinging from the blues, the most challenging.
"Considering first time off the bus, first time at a golf course here in Seattle, and a first look at what this course had to offer-- and of course it offered everything and I guess I’m pretty happy,” said Stortz of his day one play.
Though his outing didn’t start well, his longtime coach and caddy Scott Johnson is proud of his protégé’s resolve.
"[He] started off with a triple and a double back-to-back, but he came back with a bogey and then a couple pars on a couple par 3's,” said Johnson of Stortz’ play. “[He] had some real nice shots coming down the stretch, a couple of birdies here and there."
Playing an unknown course was only part of the adversity Stortz faced. It’s fortunate either one of them are in Seattle to compete. Johnson, who's had heart issues, suffered a major attack just two weeks ago. It required surgery and two stints. Just days later, Garrett was rear-ended and his car was totaled, but thankfully was okay.
"I want to know who's after the Alaska golf contingent,” joked Johnson. “I'd like to know who's got it out for us… but no, and I appreciate all the well wishes from everyone. And obviously (Garrett) and I go back a long way, more than just on the golf end… (it was) very good for him to get focused and on task after all the things that have gone on the last couple of weeks. So that's a testament to him and how he prepared for these games."
And that preparation paid off on the 17th hole.
"Seventeen was the “oh drop the club moment”, stand back and like is it in? Is it close? What's going to happen?” Stortz asks while watching the balls roll toward the hole. “I get up there and it's sitting an inch away from the cup, not even that and it's just like “wow” that close to an ace in the national games? That's just awesome."
The birdie helped Stortz to an 84, which put him one stroke under the 85 necessary to maintain the high-performance level.
“You can tell (Stortz’) passionate about the sport and how much he enjoys it,” beamed Johnson. “That obviously shows in the interviews and the way he presents himself on the course."
Stortz has come a long way since his bronze medal effort at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles in 2015. His key, like many golfers, is upstairs… keeping his head in the game and approaching each round the right way.
"(I’m going to) regroup over tonight and go into tomorrow feeling loose again, feeling great and see if I can improve on today's round," said Stortz.
He has overcome adversity in his life and now, Garrett Stortz is on the course inspiring others. He truly embodies the USA Games mantra; "Rise With Us".
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