Sunshine and warm weather has many golfers hitting the links in East Texas, but on one course in Longview, today's golf was reserved for very special players. For seven years, organizers with Scottish Rite Hospital have come to Alpine Golf Club in Longview to give physically-challenged kids a chance to play golf.
"It's really everything for them. This gets them outside, gets them participating in something they might not normally do. The smile of their face is the reward without any question," said Alpine Club professional Mike Williams.
Blaine Balliette, 14, of Longview has played in this event six times. Suffering from severe arthritis, he gets a lot out of the event every year. "It really strengthens the muscles in my legs, and it's hard to swing while you're standing like that, a lot of fun. They get something you can play your whole life," said Blaine.
Some, like Kaitlyn Guillory, 14, who suffers from the muscle disease dermatomyositis, use events like these to remain active. "With having arthritis, you can't really do a lot because your muscles get tight and this is a good way to loosen them and have fun," she said.
"This humbles you for the rest of the year. Blaine sits there and makes a 10-foot putt to win the match," Williams said.
And the kids find themselves talking like anyone else about their game. "I'm thinking about trying out this summer for the school team. My long game's horrible," said Blaine.
And maybe that's the best part. For a day they're no different from anyone else. "They're special this day. They're special every day but they're extremely special this day," said Williams.
The event was funded through the United States Golf Association. Another Scottish Rite golf day is planned for the fall.