On Monday, the Mansfield golf team hosted members of the Hockomock Area YMCA integrated golf program for a tournament at the Links at Mass Golf. The tournament began in 2017 but was put on hold because of the pandemic.
Mansfield coach Chris Hall helped start the tournament because of his background in special education.
“I work with a student with special needs outside of school, and he’s part of the YMCA integrated golf league,” said Hall. “When I started coaching Mansfield in 2017, I thought it would be a really cool experience to get some of the players from Mansfield involved in this YMCA program.”
Hall reached out to Sheila Burgess, head of the integrated golf program and a former special education administrator in North Attleborough. Now, Burgess is the coach of the team and has seen it grow over the past five years.
“It’s just been a life-changing program and experience. It’s an amazing thing to see my golfers out there and see their disabilities peel away on the course,” Burgess said. “A lot of the parents will even say, ‘I don’t even see his ADHD when he’s on the golf course because … a lot of those barriers just go away.’
“These are the things you wish for for these kids because they don’t get these kinds of opportunities too much.”
Finally having the event back in 2022 was a weight lifted off Burgess’s shoulders.
“It was so refreshing to know that this isn’t going away,” she said. “This is something that Chris and I feel really strongly about and we will make it happen every year we can.”
After five years, the YMCA integrated program has grown considerably and has attracted new members.
“We pull from many surrounding communities so we’ve really created our own community. We have kids from Norwood, Mansfield, Milton, Attleboro, North Attleborough, and even from the Cape,” said Burgess.
For Hall, this tournament goes beyond golf. He said it was amazing to see the relationships between the Mansfield players and the integrated YMCA golfers, and the smiles his golfers leave with after the event.
“They get to learn about the importance of integrated sports,” he said. “And just fostering relationships amongst athletes with and without special needs.”
Mansfield junior Jason Friedman played with a 32-year-old named Danny.
“It’s one of the best relationships I’ve ever built,” said Friedman. “He’s great to be around and it was awesome to play with him. I honestly think that if people just started to build relationships with people with special needs, it’ll really open their eyes.”
The community aspect the event created was also striking for Friedman.
“It will also make people with special needs feel more included, and that’s one of the main things I loved about it is because I wanted them to feel included,” he said. “I just loved to see them happy and have someone they can have fun with on the course.”
Senior captain Michael Creedon participated in the tournament as a freshman. He was glad to take part again.
“Due to us not being able to do it the last two years, bringing it back made it that much better because we just realized how much we missed going back,” he said. “Going back to the tournament made it that much more valuable.”
Moving forward, Hall would like to see the event expand to other schools.
“I’d like to get other towns involved to do a unified Hockomock tournament some year where we get teams from all over Hockomock to play in one big tournament,” he said. “Being a special ed teacher myself, one of my biggest goals is to add as many integration programs as I possibly can. I only see it growing from here.”
▪ With senior captain Ryan Scollins delivering a 2-under-par 34 for the second straight day, Xaverian edged Catholic Conference rival BC High, 242-248, at Wollaston Country Club Wednesday.
The Wrentham teen has shot under par in every match this season for the Hawks (4-1).
“That’s definitely a streak I don’t remember in the past,” said Xaverian coach Gerry Lambert. “We are better than I thought we were going to be before the year started and the main reason is because he has been phenomenal.”
On Thursday, Xaverian dropped its first match, 231-233, to host Bridgewater-Raynham at Olde Scotland Links — just the second win by B-R over Xaverian in 14 years.
▪ St. John’s Prep, the defending Division 1 champion, handed Winchester its first defeat Thursday, 245-255, at Salem Country Club.
The Eagles were led sophomore Tripp Hollister (2-over 38) and freshman Jack Carew (39).
“Tripp and Jack really stepped up and helped lead our team to a win . . . we had some great leadership from some new players,” said St. John’s Prep coach Brian Jasiak, who graduated six players. “It was a windy one out there. Shooting a 37 is probably like shooting a 32.”
▪ East Bridgewater (5-0) won all three of its matches last week, recording South Shore wins against Carver (112-109), Norwell (113-85), and Middleborough (105-81). Matt Werra (21 points) earned medalist honors vs. Middleborough.
▪ Michael Fitzpatrick (Superintendent of Schools, Blackstone Valley Tech) was reelected chair of the MIAA golf committee, with Pete Jones (AD, Advanced Math & Science Academy) serving as vice chair.
▪ Eleven of the 12 sectional sites have been finalized for Oct. 17-18, the lone spot not locked in is Division 2 North. The states finals are scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 25, with D1 at Renaissance GC (Andover), D2 at Maplegate CC (Bellingham), and D3 at The Ledges GC (South Hadley). With play on the rise coming out of the pandemic, securing postseason sites has become a challenge for tournament directors.
▪ The MIAA is reviewing the iWanamaker live scoring system for future use. Currently, 16 state associations utilize the tool, including Connecticut and New York, per golf liaison Phil Napolitano.
Craig Larson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.