Golf Final Round Recap: Gold for Lagasse after ‘Heavyweight Battle and Marathon rolled into one’

Three-time Special Olympics silver medalist and Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse secured his long-awaited gold medal after shooting a 77 (+5) in the final round on June 9.

It was a duel between Lagasse and another Flutie Foundation-sponsored golfer, Matthew Glumac. Glumac was playing with clubs donated by the Foundation after they were lost during the shipping process. He was neck and neck with Lagasse all the way until the final hole and will go home with a silver medal.

Experience paid off for Lagasse as he came into the morning calm and collected.

“Right now I feel relaxed and confident in myself,” Lagasse said. “After taking a couple warmups here, first at the greens, then at the range, right now I like what I see.”

Still, he knew it would not be easy.

“It’s going to be a heavyweight battle and a marathon rolled into one,” Lagasse said. “I want to wish good luck to Matt Glumac and Peter Condon for a thrilling round of golf, and I hope we have a good time and have some fun.”

See his full interview here:

I also caught up with Glumac briefly before the round:

Just like yesterday, Lagasse and Glumac teed off on hole 1 with Peter Condon of Washington, who was in third place behind the two of them.

Lagasse, Glumac, and Condon before teeing off

The Flutie-sponsored golfers started the day in a tie, but that changed quickly as Lagasse birdied the first hole and took the lead. Lagasse was feeling good about his putts in practice, and it showed on this hole. It validated what he noted about his putts on the practice green at the start of the day. It was clear that Lagasse was focused and ready for the round and he remained alone in first or tied for first for the rest of the tournament, as he made many of his putts under ten feet that were similar to many putts he made on days one and two but was not able to make on day three.

The race stayed very close for all golfers as Lagasse bogeyed the second hole, and Glumac bogeyed the third, which allowed Condon to begin catching up.

However, as the day went on, it started feeling more and more like a two-man race for Gold, as on each hole between 4 and 11, Lagasse and Glumac matched each other’s scores. Lagasse and Glumac appeared to be feeding off each other because if one hit a good shot, the other would follow with a shot just as impressive, whether it was a long-blasting drive, landing the green within a few feet of each other, good up and downs, or a tough long putt. While this happened, Condon was falling farther and farther behind. Condon was playing really well including some of the longest drives of the day and long irons landing inches from the pin but Lagasse and Glumac were scoring at or below par more consistently.

“It was just an incredible duel between me and him; it was so much fun how we were still matching each other on each hole,” Glumac said. “I would make a good shot and then he’d make a good shot right on top of it… it’s something that I’ll never forget.”

Staying close was the theme of the day as their overall scores remained close along with the proximity of their golf balls. On hole 6, all three golfers landed the green in one, each landing within 7 feet of the hole. On hole 8, Glumac and Lagasse landed the green in a very similar spot. There was even one hole where Condon hit his 300+ yard drive to the exact same spot as Glumac’s ball and their balls collided.

Hole 12 was a turning point in the round. Lagasse had been at even par for the day through 11 holes and drove the ball really well off the tee on hole 12. However, on his second shot, he was just short of the slightly elevated but steep edged green and his ball bounced back into a nearly unplayable hazard, and thus opted to drop and take a penalty stroke.

However, on the same hole 12, Glumac’s blasting drive landed at the edge of a similar hazard but the bounce was fortunate and gave Glumac the opportunity to hit a shot that reached the green. Glumac ultimately bogeyed the hole but Lagasse finished with a double bogey placing Lagasse and Glumac in the same spot they started the day, tied for first.

Lagasse was rattled a bit by the results on hole 12 and his tee shot from the 13th tee (par 3 hole), landed in the sand trap just left of the hole. He had a difficult lie on the edge of the bunker and his first shot out of the sand landed just a couple of feet forward and still in the trap, and represented the only time in the day that Lagasse had big challenges on consecutive holes.

Lagasse quickly regained his composure, and his next shot was a turning point that helped him settle down and relax again. Lagasse’s third shot hit the flag, which slowed it down, and then the ball hit the pin on the way down towards the hole, and almost went straight into the hole before rolling away about 18 inches. The fortunate bounce led to crowd cheers and also appeared to give Lagasse a bounce in his step.

Lagasse showed he was back on track in the holes that followed hole 13 because he went on a streak, matching Glumac’s score all the way until the final results were decided on the 18th hole. He was able to do this despite the lightning threat that forced all golfers to stop play for nearly two hours.

“I didn’t play for two whole hours…and during that time I got know Mr. Glumac very well,” Lagasse said about his opponent who is also sponsored by the Flutie Foundation.

Lagasse and Glumac had both landed the green in one on the par 3 hole 15 before the weather warning horn sounded and sent them back to the clubhouse without the opportunity to even attempt their birdie putts.

The two Flutie Foundation-sponsored golfers remained tied and had mixed feelings about the time inside. They were able to calm down a bit and bond with each other as they sat inside at the same table. However, the long break interrupted their flow, as play did not resume until nearly 2:00 PM.

Play Resumes after Long Wait

The long wait seemed to impact them because despite taking the time to stretch a bit, they were not allowed to take any practice putts or drives. As a result, all three golfers ended up above par once play resumed on the 15th hole. However, they quickly refocused on the 16th hole as they all made par. These golfers were close together once again with just two holes left to decide their fate.

It was clear that Lagasse was correct about how this day was going to be a duel. As the streak continued with the golfers matching each other hole for hole, blow for blow like heavyweight fighters, I overheard Glumac say in a lighthearted way, how the day was “getting kinda of boring.” It was clear that these golfers had the utmost respect for each other and knew that the Gold medal would be dependent on their performances to come on the tough 17th (par 5) and 18th (par 4) holes. They were clearly enjoying the competition that was pushing them both to stay focused on their goal to win the four-day tournament that had them tied through 70 holes.

After a strong drive on the 17th hole, Glumac appeared to be in a good position to gain a stroke to set him up with a good chance to win Gold. However, Lagasse overcame a difficult tee shot that landed in an area with a bunch of trees. It was clear that Lagasse could not reach the green in two shots so he decided to take a more conservative second shot. His ball landed off the very wide green to the far left with about 60 feet of green between his ball and the pin. Lagasse then hit a great chip shot to land about 6 feet from the hole and was able to save par with a solid mid-range putt, similar to putts he was able to make all day.

Meanwhile, despite Glumac’s great drive on the par 5 hole, he appeared to purposefully lay up as a large bunker was in front of the green and he wanted to avoid it. His second shot landed short of the green but then he chipped on the green to reach it in three shots. However, his birdie attempt went a few feet past the hole. This left Lagasse and Glumac tied for the tournament with only the final hole remaining.

My dad/cameraman suggested we drive our golf cart to where the spotter was standing to watch the three golfers tee off. When Lagasse landed his drive past the spotter with a great lie in the middle of the fairway, the spotter commented that it was the best drive he had seen all day. George Kent, Lagasse’s caddy, called it “clutch.”

“It was a textbook drive; that’s all I can say about that,” Lagasse said after he signed his scorecard.

Since Lagasse teed off first, Glumac had even more added pressure to hit the ball well as it appeared clear that Lagasse could reach the green easily in two shots. However, Glumac’s tee shot ended up going down the left side of the fairway fringe and was about 50-75 yards behind Lagasse’s first shot. With Lagasse in a perfect position to go for the green in two shots, Glumac seemingly had no choice but to try and reach in two shots as well. His second shot landed in the hazard area with tall grass and thick bushes. Despite help from Lagasse and Condon, the ball was not found and Glumac had to take a penalty stroke which ultimately gave Lagasse a great opportunity to win Gold.

Lagasse landed his second shot just to the right of the green, but the pin was positioned close by, about 15 feet away. He noted later that if he aimed left of the pin to adjust for the wind, he could have landed the green, but he was still able to recover. He nearly chipped in for birdie and the win, rolling a foot from the hole. Even without making the chip, Lagasse was well ahead of Glumac and in line to win Gold. He marked his ball and raised his hat and club to the crowd as he waited for Glumac and Condon to finish before taking his final shot to win the tournament in front of an excited crowd.

Take a look at the shot-by-shot video coverage from the final hole that captures the final few shots that sealed the victory Gold for Lagasse and Silver for Glumac:

Glumac ended up with a triple bogey to finish the day with an 80 (+8). He finished the tournament three strokes behind Lagasse and won Silver. Condon shot an 85 (+13) to finish the tournament 10 strokes behind Lagasse and win bronze.

Below are scorecards, photos, and interviews from after the final round.

Tyler Lagasse: Gold Medal Scorecard and Interview

Lagasse on the green (photo by Andrew Gomez)

Matthew Glumac: Silver Medal Scorecard and Interview

Glumac on the 11th green (photo by Andrew Gomez)

Peter Condon Final Scorecard

Condon on the 11th green (photo by Andrew Gomez)

Interview with Lagasse’s Mom, Deb Lagasse

Amy Bockerstette Interview

I also ran into the Level 5 golfer I interviewed on Wednesday, Amy Bockerstette. She recognized me after her round was complete and walked right up to me and gave me a big hug. After that, we had the chance to talk again briefly.

The Final Leaderboard

Closing Remarks after an amazing week

It’s been a pleasure covering these golfers, and I’m glad that the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism has allowed these golfers to thrive alongside my reporting.

We started and ended the week at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, former home of the NBA bubble and current home base of the Special Olympics athletes. We watched exciting rounds of golf at the Orange County National Golf Center and spent some quality time with other people from the Foundation who had also come to the games.

The Flutie Foundation team for the USA Games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports

We even watched Game 3 of the NBA Finals with Nick Savarese, the Foundation’s Executive Director, and celebrated together as the Celtics made clutch shot after clutch shot to take down the Warriors.

Nick Savarese watched Game 3 with us at his hotel bar in the Lobby area

The Flutie Foundation made this amazing week possible. Lagasse was able to practice golf more often while working a part-time job at the PGA Tour Superstore. Glumac was provided new clubs from the Flutie Foundation so he didn’t have to use rentals. I was able to receive more media exposure thanks to Nick Savarese, Liz Monroe, Ethan Michaud, and the rest of the Foundation. I’m also thankful for Lagasse and Glumac for taking the time to seek me out for interviews.

All of us involved with the Foundation were there for each other throughout the games. Lagasse and Glumac were both looking to lift up each other’s golf games. We (Nick, Liz, Ethan, my Dad, and I) came together to watch all the golfers and also attended events to cheer for Flutie Foundation-supported performers at the games including Cierra June Reynolds as well as Jake and Sky Velazquez. We also kept each other updated about the battle on the golf course when we were not together.

There are many others I’d like to thank for helping make my coverage some of my best so far and apologies if I have missed anyone. Susan Storey at the Special Olympics went above and beyond to provide us full access to the USA Games and personally delivered my reporting equipment I left at the ESPN Media Resource Center on day two. Lee Williamson of the Orange National Golf Center was also very supportive and gave us information about tee times and made sure we had a golf cart to beat the heat and keep up with the golfers to capture all their big moments on film. Josh Vorensky of ESPN, an Ithaca College alum who covered the 2018 Special Olympic Games in Seattle, helped out a bunch even while on vacation. Jen Lada of ESPN (also worked in Seattle Games) kept us connected with the reporters on-site. Lagasse’s mom, Deb Lagasse, kept us posted on things we may have missed. Andrew Gomez from Team Iowa sent me some pictures from the week that I was able to use in this post. Amy Bockerstette and her dad Joe took the time for two interviews with me in between ESPN coverage that had them in high demand.

Most importantly, and last but not least, I’d like to thank my dad/cameraman/assistant Ken Roberts. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without his help recording and combing through footage I needed. We also had to work through our fair share of challenges, like a dead car key battery needed to drive our rental car, storage issues on our devices, leaving items behind at multiple locations, and trouble getting into our hotel late at night after investing extra hours to review, report, edit, and create reports on the day’s events. Without my dad’s attention to detail and problem-solving abilities, I don’t know how I would have handled all these challenges alone. I feel fortunate to have a dad that shares my passion for sports and pushes me to learn and improve from every sports reporting experience.

Me and my dad at Orange County National Golf Center after Lagasse won Gold and Glumac won Silver

What’s Next?

I plan to return to the Special Olympics Games in 2026 to cover Glumac, Lagasse, and many other impressive athletes that do not let their disabilities define them. If I am successful as an Ithaca College Park Scholar and further improve my sports media skills, I plan to return to the next Special Olympics USA Games in four years as a recent college graduate, and hopefully new employee of ESPN or other top sports media organization, ready to do whatever is needed to realize my dream to become a professional sports journalist.

In front of the ESPN Wide World of Sports on my final day of reporting as I headed to the ESPN media center.

Regardless of what future sports reporting experiences are ahead, I will never forget this week, and you can all relive my experience too. Check out all of my coverage from the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando here!

Day 3 in Orlando: 3 Golfers Close Together after Round 3 of Level 5 Golf

We have a tight race for gold in Level 5 golf as two Flutie Foundation sponsored autistic golfers, Tyler Lagasse of Massachusetts and Matthew Glumac of Southern California are tied for first with Peter Condon of Washington just two strokes behind.

Lagasse and Condon both competed in Seattle and tied with a total score of 244. Glumac, 27, is a newcomer to the Special Olympics, and it’s the biggest tournament he’s played in. While he lost his clubs on the way here, the Flutie Foundation stepped up to get him the new clubs of his choice, and it has paid off.

The Special Olympics called the Flutie Foundation because it was known that they have sponsored golfers before including current sponsored golfer Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse. The Foundation also has a relationship with the PGA Tour Superstore, where Lagasse recently began working thanks in part to the Foundation. On Sunday June 5th, The Foundation learned about all the specifications of Matt’s clubs that were lost and went to the store to get Matt Glumac new clubs that were nearly identical to what he was used to. By 6PM, the night before the golf tournament started, they personally delivered the clubs to Matt.

The Foundation has now officially sponsored Glumac. Matt has a passion for sports in common with me and even has his own vlog known as “The Autistic Golfer.” He already feels welcome within the Flutie Foundation family.

“It was so generous of them to give me those clubs,” Glumac said. “I can actually keep them, that means so much. They didn’t have to go through all that just for me. I most likely was going to be using a rental set here and they went out of their way to get some good clubs for me.”

Lagasse is proud to play alongside Glumac and welcome him to the Flutie Foundation family.

“It’s so good to see that the Flutie Foundation has his back. It has not been easy (for Matt)… we’re there for each other, I don’t care where you’re from, whether it’s Boston, Massachusetts or San Diego, California.”

Today was a hot one and the competition made it feel hotter. It was a high-stakes day and tomorrow will be as well, but Lagasse hopes the three of them can relax and have more fun playing together in tomorrow’s round.

“I think the pressure made it feel hotter, and you can’t take away the temperature,” Lagasse said. “It was hot in the back nine but I think we were just putting too much pressure on ourselves. We were playing tense golf.”

Lagasse, Glumac, and Condon all teed off together on hole 1. The three of them were the only golfers placed in division 1 for the Level 5 competition. The winner of this gold medal could be considered the best Special Olympic golfer in the country right now. The golfers started off strong, with all three making par on hole 1.

After this hole, Glumac got into a groove. Despite bogeying hole 2, he birdied hole 4 and was at even par through 5. The strong start had him 5 strokes ahead of Lagasse.

Hole 7, a par 4, was a challenge for all three golfers as temps continued to rise. Lagasse bogeyed, Condon double bogeyed, and Glumac triple bogeyed. It was after this hole that the race began to tighten once again.

On hole 9, Lagasse went for a risky drive on a dog left fairway. While the green was a challenge for him, the risk paid off as he remained just one stroke behind Glumac on the day and two strokes for the tournament overall to conclude the front nine.

While Lagasse’s 84 was his worst score of the tournament, Lagasse’s back nine score of a 41 was his best yet at the tournament through three days. While the heat and pressure affected the golf today, golfers have benefitted from continuing to learn the course.

“I was willing to take risks because I knew the course a little bit more, and therefore I used driver more often and 3-wood more often,” Lagasse said.

Hole 14, a par 5, was an important hole for Lagasse. Yesterday, he bogeyed the hole after being challenged by a difficult lie. Today, Lagasse flipped the script by reaching the fringe in 2 shots and walked away with his only birdie on the day but it was a big moment for his round.

After hole 14, Lagasse, Glumac, and Condon all stood at +10 on the day, meaning Lagasse was still 1 behind Glumac for the tournament just like he was when the day began. For the first time since hole 1, all three golfers had the same score, as they made par on hole 15.

Hole 16 was another challenge for all three golfers. However, this also made the race even closer. It was a Glumac double bogey that allowed Lagasse to tie Glumac’s cumulative score.

Lagasse and Glumac remained neck and neck for the rest of the day, and Condon gained a stroke on them with a birdie on hole 17. Now it will truly be a three horse race for gold in tomorrow’s final round.

3 golfers, Condon (left, +25), Lagasse (middle, +23), and Glumac (right, +23) close together on the hole 18 green.

Below are scorecards and interviews of all three golfers in the running.

Lagasse’s Scorecard and Interview

Glumac’s Scorecard and Interview

Condon’s Scorecard and Interview

Other Stories around the Course

ESPN has been following the two female golfers in the Level 5 competition, Grace Braxton and Amy Bockerstette.

Braxton, a division 2 golfer, had the chance to play a hole with retired multi-sport athlete Tim Tebow.

Bockerstette, the first college athlete with down syndrome to receive an athletic scholarship, was featured by ESPN yesterday and I had the chance to interview her today.

For another funny story, Florida is known for its gators and that proved true here today. Fortunately, the golfers cleared the water trap on the par 3 hole 13 where a baby alligator was spotted along with a young turtle a few feet away.

Leaderboard Update

With these scores, the leaderboard is looking like this.

The golfers are all hoping to improve their scores tomorrow to make for some close, exciting golf.

“I need consistency,” Glumac said. “I was basically all over the place today… one thing I want to do is just go out with Tyler and Peter and try to have some fun… my heart was racing really fast today. I feel like no matter what I tried I couldn’t get my heart to stop beating. It’s a lot of tension, and Tyler’s been in it before… if I were to lose to anyone, I’d want to lose to Tyler, because he deserves to win this just as much as I do.”

Stay tuned for coverage of the final round here tomorrow.

Day 2 in Orlando: Level 5 Golf Recap

Tyler Lagasse improved on his Day 1 score by shooting a 77 (+5) in Tuesday, June 7’s round, putting him in position for an elite leaderboard position and division alongside Matthew Glumac of Southern California, who shot a 75 (+3) and Peter Condon of Washington, who shot a 83 (+11$).

Lagasse teed off on hole 1 with Ian Kelley of Florida and Ben Purick of New York as part of an 8AM shotgun start. He went in with a strategy of consistency.

“I‘ll just try to stay calm, focused, and keep the ball in play,” Lagasse said. “The course is a little tighter than I anticipated.

Similar to yesterday, Lagasse started his round on a high note. He was at even par through the first 3 holes. Then on the 4th hole, both Lagasse and Kelley chipped in for eagle. Lagasse and Kelley were ecstatic after their eagles and made sure to celebrate.

“Those were the two shots of the day in my opinion,” Lagasse said.

Lagasse remained -2 through 8 holes, and right around then Bruins Foundation CEO Bob Sweeney stopped by to watch Tyler for a few holes. However, the momentum began to shift when Tyler bogeyed on two consecutive holes. He made par on 11, but then came hole 12, one of the most difficult holes on the entire course.

Both Lagasse and Purick, who were driving from the same longer distance tee, double bogeyed on 12 after landing their ball in a penalty zone. Lagasse is thinking about how he can improve on hole 12 for the next two days.

“I have to mentally prepare myself, maybe hit my 5-iron a little better… not overcutting the ball, not overswinging,” Lagasse said.

Hole 14, a par 5, was another challenge for Lagasse. He was driving the ball extremely well, but his 2nd shot landed just right of the green. It took 2 more shots after this to get on the green due to a difficult lie. Once Lagasse got onto the green, his first putt nearly made it, but he ended up having to tap in for bogey.

“From outside 10 feet, I could use some more improvement [on my putts],” Lagasse said.

In the final four holes, Lagasse made par twice and bogeyed twice to finish +5 on the day. Purick and Kelley were +11 and +13, respectively. Here’s Tyler’s final scorecard from the day:

Lagasse finished the two rounds that will be used for division placement with a two-day score of 155 (+11), one stroke behind Glumac, whose total is 154 (+10). Glumac and Lagasse are first and second. Peter Condon is in third at 158 (+14). Lagasse’s division and the full leaderboard have not been announced yet, but I will add those to this article when they are out.

See below for clips from my post-round interview with Tyler:

After interviewing Tyler, I ran into Jen Lada of ESPN, who I first met in Seattle at the 2018 USA Games. Today, Jen was covering one of two female golfers in the level 5 competition, Amy Bockerstette. Bockerstette is the first person with Down Syndrome to receive an athletic scholarship to attend college for any sport. I’ll be interviewing Amy myself tomorrow, so stay tuned for that.

I also caught up with Travis Curtis of Maine, an autistic level 5 golfer who will be attending a Flutie Foundation event tonight. His cumulative score is a 170 (+26), as he shot an 83 yesterday and an 87 today.

Before I signed off for the day, I reported as if I was called upon for a live update from in front of the entrance to Orange County National Golf Center. Stay tuned for more golf coverage here and coverage of what’s happening at the ESPN Wide World of Sports tomorrow night.

2022 USA Games: Day 1 Level 5 Golf Recap

Tyler Lagasse shot a 78 (+6) on his first day of the 4-day competition and is alongside Peter Condon of Washington and Matthew Glumac of Southern California atop the leaderboard.

After being honored alongside the rest of Team Massachusetts at Opening Ceremony on Sunday, June 5, Lagasse came into today ready to go. He was on the course early to stretch out and teed off from hole 1 as part of a shotgun start at 8:00 AM sharp. Lagasse started off the day on fire as he impressed his mom (heard in the video clip) and himself by eagling a par 5.

“Of course it wasn’t the first time I eagled the first hole in any competition, but eagle on the 1st hole was a thrill,” Lagasse said.

After the eagle, Lagasse was able to remain steady through the rest of the front nine. He was at even par through the first nine holes. 

Fortunately, like the rest of the golfers, Tyler Lagasse did not have to walk the course in the heat. Instead he rode a golf cart (pictured here with his caddy George Kent).

The back nine of Crooked Cat is known for being more challenging than the front nine. The rising temperatures coupled with the humidity made the back nine even more difficult. Lagasse bogeyed a few holes on the back nine but he still finished with a good first day score. Lagasse believes he can do even better tomorrow.

“The weather was gorgeous overall,” Lagasse said. “I just had trouble executing on the back nine and need to work on my consistency for tomorrow… still, any score under 80 is a good one.”

Below is Lagasse’s final scorecard:

Lagasse is currently in second place behind Condon, who was neck and neck with him in Seattle 2018. Glumac is in a close 3rd. Ryan Luck and Travis Curtis, who teed off with Lagasse, are also in the mix. See the full top 10 below.

Stay tuned for more coverage here of the rest of the golf tournament.

2022 Special Olympics USA Games Preview: Lagasse is hungry for gold

The Special Olympics USA Games kick off in Orlando next week. Over 5,500 athletes will be competing in 19 different sports. As a credentialed member of the press, I hope to take it all in. I’ll primarily be following the story of one of those athletes: Tyler Lagasse.

Lagasse is a 35-year old autistic adult from Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. He is a three-time silver medalist in the most competitive level of Special Olympics golf. Each of those times he finished second to Scott Rohrer of South Carolina.

Lagasse, like in 2018, will be sponsored by the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and alongside me and several others, he is now a Flutie Fellow.

Rohrer will not be competing this year, and Lagasse is hungry for gold. However, the gold medal won’t necessarily be a cake walk for him. Lagasse still has to fend off a field of 26 other Level 5 golfers. “Winning gold [is going to be the biggest challenge of this trip], plain and simple,” Lagasse said. “You’re not only competing against yourself, you’re competing against the whole country. The challenges are going to be great but the rewards would be greater.”

Read below to learn more about Lagasse’s preparation for this tournament, the course he’ll be playing on, and the other golfers he’ll face off against.

Lagasse further improves his golf game

Lagasse in 2018 at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle

The last time I covered Lagasse was in 2018 at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle. He was already an experienced 18-hole golfer when at the time as he had won Silver at the USA Games 2 consecutive Special Olympics.

Tyler began golfing in 2003 and has traveled to Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, Nebraska, and several other places for Special Olympics tournaments.  He is a member of the Special Olympics hall of fame, won an honorary ESPY in 2017, and was even featured on a Golf Channel program in 2010. Several times including 2014, along with a few other Special Olympics golfers, Tyler has been invited to the Pro-Am, a PGA event.

In the 2018 USA Games, he shot a 79-86-79 for the silver medal. Since then, Lagasse has further improved his golf game. He credits much of this improvement to an increase in the amount of time he has been able to spend training both on and off the golf course.

“In 2018, I was still a student at UMass Lowell while in 2022 I have a part-time job which allows me more time to physically and mentally prepare for this year’s games,” Lagasse said.

Lagasse made sure to squeeze in a lot of golfing before heading down to Orlando. However, mental preparation is also a key part of Lagasse’s success on the golf course.

“I try to remember not to get too hard on myself, a mistake that’s hurt me in the past,” Lagasse said. “But I just try to relax, concentrate on the task at hand, and take it one hole at a time.”

On Wednesday, this mental preparation helped him as he shot a personal best score of 67 on an 18-hole course. Lagasse will look to carry this success into Orlando. Let’s take a look at the course he’ll be playing on as he looks to improve on his 2018 scores.

The Course: Crooked Cat at Orange County National Golf Center

Image via oncgolf.com

All of this year’s golf will take place at the Orange County National Golf Center near Orlando, Florida, located about 6 miles northwest of Walt Disney World, where Special Olympians will be staying. It contains two 18-hole courses, Crooked Cat and Panther Lake. Crooked Cat is the course that Level 1, 3, and 5 Special Olympics golfers will be playing on. This course can be challenging due to significant elevation changes throughout the fairways. However, while 2018’s course (Eagle’s Talon at Willows Run Golf Complex in Seattle) had tree-lined narrow fairways, this is a more open course.

While Lagasse is unsure how the course will affect him until he plays on it, he knows it will allow him more freedom in terms of shot selection.

“I’m free to use my driver and 3-wood and I can forgive myself for misses because it’s more wide open,” Lagasse said. “I just have to play my game, stick to the strategy, and hopefully it’ll work out in the end.”

Weather conditions will also differentiate this course from Willows Run. Lagasse felt the weather was rather comfortable in Seattle, with high temperatures averaging around 70 degrees. This time, high temperatures are looking to be in the 90’s, though golfers may avoid the peak of the heat as most players will start playing early in the morning.

Below is some information about some of the other golfers who will be competing alongside Lagasse.

Familiar Faces (Competed in 2018)

Condon has been playing golf since 2006. In 2018, he was part of Division 1, Tyler Lagasse’s division, in the Level 5 High Performance Individual Stroke Tournament. Playing in his home state of Washington, he finished with the same total score as Lagasse (244). While golfers will not be split into divisions this time around until after Monday’s round, Condon may be competing with Lagasse for a medal once again. Will he be able to adjust to the Orlando heat and keep up with Lagasse?
Curtis joined Special Olympics Maine in 2007.  He will be participating in the Level 5 High Performance competition as he did in 2018, but he has also played Unified golf in the past. Curtis has won gold in the Maine state tournament for 12 consecutive years, and will look to take it to the next level as he competes for his first gold on the national scale.
Braxton is a longtime Special Olympics golfer and swimmer. She has participated since 1981, before Tyler Lagasse was even born. She participated in the USA Games in 2010 (where she won Division 2 gold), 2014, and 2018 as well as the World Games in 1991, 2007, 2011, and 2019. She won gold in 2007 and 2011 competing against all female golfers. When she competed against male and female golfers in 2019, she still came home with silver. While it is still to be determined what division she will compete in, she will look to bring home another medal no matter who her competition is.

Other Competitors to Watch for

Three of the competitors are playing in their home state which could be a factor like it was for Condon in 2018. Below is the list of golfers to watch for with a few highlights about them.

  • Vince Egan, Colorado
    • Has competed in Special Olympics basketball and alpine skiing as well
    • Won gold in alpine skiing at 2017 World Games
    • Has played golf in his spare time and is competing at Level 5 this year
  • Matthew Glumac, Southern California
    • Autistic golfer who vlogs about his golf experiences
    • Won gold in 9-hole competition at SoCal state games in 2019 (shot a 67)
    • Has since shot a 68 (-4) on an 18-hole course
    • Will compete in 18-hole golf at 2022 USA Games
  • Ian Kelley, Florida
    • Has been golfing in Special Olympics for 7.5 years
    • First USA Games
    • Before the USA Games, worked with John Brown, one of just 352 PGA professionals
    • Per WFTV in Central Florida, Brown sees “massive upside” in Kelley’s game
  • Ryan Luck, Florida
    • Won silver at 2015 World Games in Los Angeles
    • Golfs daily with his dad, Robin
  • Jonathan Baylor, West Virginia
    • 8-year Special Olympian in basketball, golf, and softball
    • First time at USA Games for any sport
  • Nathan Cheverton, Tennessee
    • Has competed in six different Special Olympic sports at varied levels over the last 36 years
  • Drew Dormagen, West Virginia
    • Competed in World Games golf back in 1999, his first year with Special Olympics
    • Has continued Special Olympics golf at various levels leading up to 2022 USA Games
  • John Flynn, South Carolina
    • Went to USA Games in 2014 as a basketball player
    • Returning as a golfer in 2022
  • Steven Foley, New York
    • Won in 9-hole golf (red level) at New York state competition in 2021
    • Will switch to 18-hole golf for the USA Games in 2022
  • Brett Geiger, New York
    • Competed at national level in Team Brightspot Unified Golf Challenge in preparation for the USA Games
  • Andrew Hay, New York
    • Won in 9-hole golf (blue level) at New York state competition in 2021
    • Will switch to 18-hole golf for the USA Games in 2022
  • Andrew Johnson, South Carolina
    • Won silver in unified golf with his dad at 2018 USA Games
    • Will compete in Level 5 by himself at 2022 USA Games
  • Michael Ladieu, Florida
    • Has fetal alcohol syndrome but refuses to let it limit him
    • Played at 2021 Florida state golf tournament leading up to USA Games
  • Adam Leitko, Texas
    • Played level 5 golf at 2019 Special Olympics Fall Classic
    • Will take his talents to USA Games at the same level this year
  • Shawn Palmer, New Mexico
    • Has participated in seven Special Olympic sports
    • Works at local golf course and has gained golf experience over the last few years
  • Ben Purick, New York
    • Won gold in 2021 Special Olympics New York games as a Level 5 golfer
    • First USA Games despite golfing for 19 years
  • Andrew Williams, Tennessee
    • Has been competing in Special Olympics for 16 years
    • Won bronze in golf at 2010 USA Games
  • Graham Wright, Virginia
    • Has competed in basketball and softball as well
    • Has been in Special Olympics for 33 years, not all golf though

Lagasse is Ready to go

Lagasse has a competitive field of golfers to fight for gold with, but it seems he is up for the challenge. I spoke with Tyler briefly just before he left for Orlando and he said he’s ready to go for Gold.

His excitement remains high today because when he landed in Orlando, NFL legend Peyton Manning greeted him soon after and he had the chance for a photo opportunity (see below)!

Round 1 is Monday so stay tuned here to learn how Lagasse channels his energy towards his golf game.


Ready for Special Olympics, Park Scholar Program after Graduation

CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL OLYMPIC COVERAGE

After a busy 4 years at Algonquin Regional High School, I will be graduating this Sunday, June 5.

Right after graduation, I’ll be hopping on a flight to Florida to cover the Special Olympics USA Games for the second consecutive time to follow the story of 3-time silver medalist golfer and Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse. You’ll be able to follow my coverage on this page.

Once I return, I will be preparing for my next four years as a sports media major in the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. In case you have not heard, I was recently selected into the Park Scholar Program, Ithaca College’s full-ride scholarship program centered around service in the communications industry. I’d like to thank the entire Park Scholar Selection Committee for choosing to bring me on board for these next four years.

Check out this video of my official announcement from the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism’s 26.2 Can Do Fest before the Boston Marathon. I was there alongside football legend and Foundation co-founder Doug Flutie and voice of the New England Patriots Bob Socci, who have been a tremendous help with my goal to become a professional sports journalist.

I am really excited to begin the next chapter in my journey!

Day 5 in Seattle: Final Round/Week Recap for 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament

1-Top Golfers together
Scott Rohrer (right) with the other top 5 golfers: Brock Aoki (far left), Peter Condon (left), Thomas Cleek (middle), and Tyler Lagasse (far right)

For the 3rd and final round on the 4th of July, Scott Rohrer started the day with a solid lead.  His playing partners for the day, Peter Condon of Washington was 7 strokes back and Thomas Cleek of Missouri was 8 strokes back.  Tyler Lagasse was also 8 strokes back and started on hole 2, just 1 hole in front of Scott in the shotgun start.

All the golfers were strong off the tee from the beginning and early on it was Scott’s strength as it had been for most of the 3-day tournament.

The greens seemed to be playing even tougher on this final day as it had been mostly dry and sunny on day 2 and it was a very clear and sunny day right from the start of the day 3.  It showed, as Scott and his partners struggled with putting on the 1st green and it continued for Scott for the first 8 holes.  It showed in his scores as he started double bogey, bogey, bogey on the first 3 holes and was 5 over as he waited to tee off on the Par 3 9th hole with Tyler putting for birdie on the green of the same hole.

Tyler came out on fire, playing aggressive and with confidence and was even par through his first 7 holes with a birdie on 4 to offset his bogey on 2, his first hole of the day.  Since the tee box was moved closer on the 8th hole to make it a par 3 hole for the tournament, holes 7, 8, and 9 were all par 3’s so Scott’s group had caught up to Tyler’s and Scott was waiting for them on the 9th tee box as Tyler sunk his birdie, making him one under.

At this point in the round, Scott knew he was not playing his best and seeing Tyler’s birdie probably got his competitive juices flowing, especially after he had just bogeyed hole 8.

Scott then hit his tee shot on the 9th green landing his ball about 5 feet away from the hole.  Scott let himself know and everybody in the crowd know that he was still fighting for gold as he fist pumped and yelled “boom” as he did on all of his big successful putts in this tournament.

That was the start of a tournament clinching stretch of holes from 9 through 16.  On the 10th hole, Scott pitched in for eagle from deep rough over the high mound of the back of the green.  Scott was so far away from the hole that we could only capture the ball popping up in the air and rolling into the hole as you heard Scott and then the crowd, roar.

At that point it was clear it was going to be Scott’s day to win Gold for the 3rd straight Special Olympics USA Games.  After the very exciting and momentum changing 9th and 10th holes, Scott had only 2 bogeys for the rest of the day.  He finished the last 4 holes with birdies on 15 and 16.  As he approached his putt on 18, he walked with confidence knowing he had the lead on his two playing partners for the day and that his par putt on 18 was likely for the win.

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I watched Scott beam with pride as he spoke to Jen Lada of ESPN first.  He wanted to give me the first interview but I was happy to wait, watch, and learn as Jen with her producer Josh Vorensky and the ESPN camera crew conducted their interview for the station’s Special Olympic coverage.  Jen pointed Scott in my direction after her interview was finished and he was happy to speak to me.

Tyler Lagasse had won silver for the 3rd straight Special Olympic USA games, 6 strokes behind his friend and first round partner Scott Rohrer.  Scott’s finish was too strong for Tyler to catch up.  Tyler was still all smiles because he loves the game and he gave it his best effort to go for Gold.  I met with him after his round was over.

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I had an unbelievable week with Scott and Tyler.  Without them and the Doug Flutie Jr Foundation for Autism who sponsored all 3 of us, none of the experiences I had would have been possible.

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I started my journey in Seattle with a tour of Eagle’s Talon where Tyler and Scott would battle it out with the other Olympians for 3 straight days.  My tour included the Hole 3 green known for its beautiful view of Mount Rainier.  It was too overcast to see the mountain that first day but over the next several days while following the games, the sky cleared up and Mount Rainier slowly came into view.

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Me at Hole 3 of Eagles Talon during my Day 1 tour.  It was overcast, so I could not see Mount Rainier.

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Me at Eagles Talon on my final day in Seattle with Mount Rainier behind to my right

My week kind of went the same way as I came into the week unclear on what I would do and how it would come together.

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But in the end, each day I grew as a reporter and as a person looking up to Tyler and Scott as I learned of their stories and how they have achieved so much by working so hard.  Over the week I had time with Deborah Horne of KIRO 7 news who put my dad and I on the air.  I got to cheer the athletes at Husky Stadium for an unbelievable Opening Ceremony.  That same day, I had the chance to visit the Space Needle in Seattle Center.  On my last day I met and interviewed with Podcaster Colin Weston of ModGolf.  I also even learned a few tips directly from Jen Lada of ESPN.

But this trip was about all the inspirational athletes I saw at the Opening Ceremonies and especially about Tyler and Scott because they were why I was in Seattle.  To me it was fitting that on the last day as Scott and I reached the 3rd hole for the last time that Mount Rainier was visible for the first time all week.  These golfers had reached yet another summit and I got to share the experience with them.  They have inspired me and many others to keep pushing to be the best you can be.

Behind the scenes, this trip was not easy for me and at times I got very frustrated when things did not go as I expected.  However, just like for Tyler and Scott on the golf course, I was able to find focus on camera.  Now I know I have to keep working to improve my skills to be the best me I can be.  With this life changing opportunity to be a Flutie Fellow covering such an exciting national event and travel to Seattle for the first time, I am one step closer to reaching my goal to become a Professional Sports Broadcaster.

Below are the final results of the Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament:

Note: Divisions M01-M03 are High Performance (Blue Tees), the rest of the golfers (M04-M07) teed off from the White Tees.

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This post is also available on the Flutie Foundation Blog 

Day 4 in Seattle: Round 2 Recap from the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament

If there was only one thing I could say to describe the current state of the USA Games Level V Golf Tournament, it would be that this is still anybody’s game.  The Flutie Foundation sponsored golfers, Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer, came to Seattle as the heavy favorites to win gold and silver medals, and Scott is currently leading the tournament by seven strokes.  But Peter Condon of Washington, Brock Aoki of Utah, and Thomas Cleek of Missouri among other golfers have challenged Tyler and Scott through 2 days on a course with greens playing very fast causing many 3-putts and few 4-putts.

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Peter Condon is currently in 2nd (+22) after shooting an 82 (+11) in both rounds.  Tyler Lagasse is tied for 3rd with Thomas Cleek, and Brock Aoki is in 5th after starting Round 2 as the leader.  However, Cleek, Lagasse, and Aoki are all within two strokes of 2nd place.

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Scott Rohrer (middle) with his Round 2 tee-off group, including Thomas Cleek (left) and Chris Lussier (right)

Unlike Day 1, Tyler and Scott were not paired up.  Tyler was paired with Tony Marino, and they started on Hole 3.  Scott started on Hole 2 with Chris Lussier and Thomas Cleek.

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Despite facing more putting challenges than yesterday, Tyler Lagasse did well again today, shooting an 86.  “There were some putts that just didn’t break the way I wanted them to and other times it was just a case of the yips” (Tyler Lagasse).  He had some very strong moments, like his birdie on the par 5 hole 11, and an excellent par save on Hole 18, which he said was his best hole.

On hole 18, his drive did not reach the fairway but he made 2 great shots to reach the green in 3 shots despite the long yardage he had to make up on the long and difficult 566 yard par 5 hole.

Hole 18
Tyler’s 2nd shot on 18 after failing to reach the fairway with his tee shot

Tyler did have some very nice drives and had little difficulty sticking the green when he needed to.  He pulled out the driver more often, trying to play more aggressively than yesterday.   I asked him why he used his driver more and he said, “I just had to be aggressive, I was getting a little bit emotional, I just wanted to push myself to be the best I can possibly be.”

Scott Rohrer played even better than he did in round 1, shooting a 76 (+5) to take the tournament lead.  In response to my question about how he thinks he did today vs. yesterday, he said, “I played a lot better than yesterday, I’ve improved somehow over the past day.”  He was very consistent, making par on each of the first three holes.  Like Tyler, he birdied the 11th.  However, he has no doubt in his mind that his best hole was hole 1, which due to the shotgun start on hole 2, he actually ended his round on hole 1.  He had a huge drive on the 386 yard par 4 that nearly landed the green in one.  He says it was his longest drive in the two tournaments he has played at Willows Run.

For some video footage from the day, including my stand-up live from Willows Run and my interviews with Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer, see below:

Although Scott Rohrer has a 7-stroke lead, we have learned from this week to expect the unexpected and that the leaderboard can shuffle around very quickly.  Someone who is in 4th or 5th right now could be the leader in their division by the end of the final round on the 4th of July.  Who will take home the gold?  Will Scott hold on to the lead for his third straight gold medal at the USA Games, or will Tyler or someone else catch him?

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This post is also available on the Flutie Foundation blog.

 

 

 

Day 3 in Seattle: Round 1 Recap from 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament

Immediately following round 1, I reported via Facebook Live.  See video below.

Also, after the round, Flutie sponsored golfer and 2nd after round 1 golfer, Tyler Lagasse, had his article featured on ESPN.

Late last night (July 2nd) I created a more detailed round 1 recap as a video report that focuses on Flutie Foundation-supported Tyler Lagasse of Special Olympics Massachusetts and Scott Rohrer of Special Olympics South Carolina.

The voiceover text and video are below.

It was cold and damp as the golfers waited in their carts to begin.  The carts were used to speed up pace of play.  Tyler won the toss to tee off first.

Both Tyler and Scott bogied on the first hole as their nerves seemed still high for the start of the tournament.  They both bounced back in Hole 2, with Tyler just missing a birdie and Scott making one from a couple feet away.

One of Scott’s most challenging holes was the Par 4 3rd hole.  He took a penalty stroke for hitting out of bounds but recovered with a solid 2-putt to finish the hole.

Both parred the 4th hole with each of them coming within a foot of a birdie on 10 foot or more putts.

On hole 5, Tyler just missed par but still gained a stroke on Scott, who just missed his bogey putt.

On the 7th hole par 3, Scott came within inches of a birdie off a putt of over 20 feet and then Tyler’s par putt almost rimmed out but went in.

Hole 8 was shortened to Par 3 and they both parred, but it was their partner, Travis Curtis from Maine that dazzled on the Par 3 9th with a near hole in one.

On hole 11, both Tyler and Scott had chances for eagles with very long drives and solid shots with Scott landing on the green in 2 and Tyler on the back fringe.  Tyler’s eagle shot got him within 10 feet but on his birdie attempt he rolled past the hole by a few inches.  Scott’s birdie attempt reached the lip of the hole.  A good hole for both golfers and the start of a strong back 9 stretch for Scott as he played 1 over for the final 8 holes.

Hole 12 was a very strange hole as Travis Curtis called for a rules official as his ball appeared to land in a divot-like hole on the green.  Then there was a loud plane soaring over us as well.  Tyler 4 putted the hole for a double bogey but then picked up his play and went 2 over on the last 6 holes.

On 13, all three golfers hit strong off the tee and landed within feet of each other.  On Tyler’s second shot he landed at the very back of the green.  Tyler’s putting came back strong when he hit a 50 foot putt within inches of the hole almost making a birdie and tapped in for par as did Scott.

On 14, Scott made a very exciting 20 foot putt for birdie, pumping his fist as the ball dropped in the hole.  Tyler had a 3 foot birdie putt lip out of the hole after a tremendous tee shot but had to settle for a par tap in.

On 15 and 16, the tee shots of Tyler and Scott landed really close like they had on 13.  Their scores were close too, as Scott had par and a bogey and Tyler was close to matching it, just missing a par putt on 16 to go bogey and par.

Hole 17 is Eagle’s Talon signature hole.  It’s a par 3 over a lot of water and the tee was moved up.  The green has 3 levels making putting difficult.  Travis Curtis had his birdie putt just missed from 10 feet go in and out of the hole.  Scott and Tyler each had very long putts for birdie and left themselves about 3 feet on either side of the hole.  All 3 golfers got par.

The long par 5 18th hole was an adventure for all 3 golfers starting with Tyler’s tee shot got a lucky bounce off the cart path to avoid landing in a hazard area.  Travis Curtis ended up with a 9 after getting in trouble with the water.  In the end, both Tyler and Scott had 1 foot putts to end the round with a par but Scott’s putt just lipped out.  Still, both golfers finished strong and within 2 strokes of each other.  They hope to carry their momentum into tomorrow.

After the first round, Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer are 2nd and 3rd on the Special Olympics USA Level V Golfer leaderboard.  I had the chance to talk to both Tyler and Scott moments after they signed their scorecard.  Even though my cameraman (my dad Ken) had his first technical difficulty with one of my interviews, the audio came through for you to enjoy.  I also had the chance to quickly speak to the Round 1 Leader, Brock Aoki.

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This post can also be seen on the Flutie Foundation blog.

 

Day 2 in Seattle: Opening Ceremonies and Exploring the City

I truly enjoyed my first full day here in Seattle.  After a nice complementary breakfast from our hotel, we left for Opening Ceremonies.  We stopped by the IMA building to grab our press passes and video bib, and my dad and I met some of the other press members at the Special Olympics.  After we had our passes, we found a place to park our car, and we arrived at Husky Stadium just in time for the Parade of State Delegations.

Opening Ceremony Husky
Me posing with the husky in front of Husky Stadium at University of Washington.

I watched with excitement and pride as all the athletes marched into the stadium with their home state teams.  I was even able to spot Tyler Lagasse in the group of Massachusetts Olympians.  Tyler was also able to take a picture with Scott Rohrer, who despite being Tyler’s biggest rival, is also a good friend of Tyler’s.

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Elite Level V golfers Scott Rohrer (left) and Tyler Lagasse (right) take an Opening Ceremony selfie together

After the ceremonies were over, I met briefly with with Tyler and his coach George and confirmed the three-some including Tyler, Scott, and Travis Curtis of Maine will all tee off on Hole 1 at Eagle’s Talon at 8:30 as part of a shotgun start for Level V golfers.

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After the parade, we decided to go inside for food and shade, as it was getting warmer as the sun had come out.  We couldn’t find food right away, and we wanted to find some USA Games merchandise, so we stepped outside the stadium for a minute.  We filmed the 1st part of our Facebook Live video.  If we had left even a few minutes later, we wouldn’t have been seen by the local CBS station, KIRO-TV (Channel 7 on most Seattle TVs).  After seeing us film our live video, they decided to interview us about my coverage of the games and my Flutie Fellowship.  They wanted to know my story and decided broadcast part of our interview with the news station and it aired on both the 5PM and 11PM news on July 1st.  I was very excited to learn that they found my story interesting enough even with so many talented athletes to cover.  We watched the report from our hotel room at 11:15 (see below) and we were told that the news story will also be posted on the station’s website

Just when we were about to leave to go find food in the city, we saw a room full of people who had pizza!  It was perfect timing as we had searched at least half the stadium looking for pizza stands that were open.  Although the pizza was technically for volunteers only, they let me have two free slices, and I gave out my business cards to all of them.  They even let us stay to film the 2nd part of our live video.

After that, we headed back to the IMA to stop by the media room one more time.

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We decided to stick around, as George, Tyler’s coach, wanted us to meet Tyler and Scott.  George said they could meet at the media room after Opening Ceremonies ended.  Scott had other plans he could not change, but we met with George and Tyler to discuss what kind of coverage we were going to do during the tournament.  We wanted to make sure that our plans would not have a negative impact on Tyler or any of the other golfers.

After Opening Ceremonies, we went into the city to explore.  We started our journey in Seattle at the iconic Space Needle, which was open despite construction that had the restaurant closed and parts of the observation deck blocked off.

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We still got an amazing view and some nice pictures at the top of the needle.

After seeing the Space Needle, we were still hungry.  We decided to get pizza again but this from Mod Pizza at Seattle Center, an indoor food court/plaza that also included a monorail station.  They made our pizzas very quickly, and they came out great.  I really enjoyed my time in the city.  But now, it’s all about the athletes.  We will be live from Redmond at Willows Run tomorrow.  We can now officially say, “Let the games begin!”

This article is also available on the Flutie Foundation Blog.