Pine Oaks pilots new Special Olympics golf program

Richard launches an iron shot on the Pine Oaks driving range. Photo by Dave Ongie

Pine Oaks Golf Course, in partnership with Special Olympics Tennessee and the Tennessee Golf Foundation, is piloting a new skills development program for individuals with special needs. The six-week program is designed to develop a variety of golf skills that enhance performance and allow the athlete to achieve success playing the game.

Johnson City Commissioner Jenny Brock, an avid golfer and instructor with the First Tee of Tri-Cities, is serving as one of the coaches for the program. She said the creation of the program stems from her participation last year in a Special Olympics tournament. The format paired a Special Olympics golfer athlete with a community Unified Playing Partner. The team must qualify to play in the Tennessee Special Olympics events where they play an alternate shot format.

“My partner, Samara Correnti, and I played together multiple times, eventually tying for first place in the state tournament,” Brock said. “As we met other teams from across the state, we learned that many communities offered golf programs where their athletes had learned, developed and practiced fundamental golf skills. I knew we could provide in Johnson City that same opportunity for East Tennessee Special Olympics golf athletes.”

The pilot program is focused on teaching the six participants a variety of golf skills. Chris Sontag, director of Special Olympics Area 3, said the Special Olympics has multiple platforms in which athletes can compete based on skill level ranging from foundational skills to partnering with non-disabled golfers to golfing independently.

“This program is awesome for everyone involved, especially the athletes,” Sontag said. “With Jenny and Cody offering to run the program, it is a win-win for everyone. We need more people to help manage programs like this. While not every participating athlete will end up competing at the regional or state level, all of them will benefit from getting out on the golf course and learning or improving their skill set.”

Cody Weems of the Tennessee Golf Association admires Deborah’s chip shot. Photo by Dave Ongie

Tri-Cities Director of the Tennessee Golf Foundation Cody Weems also serves as a coach for the new program. His organization has been a longtime supporter of Special Olympics as a sponsor of events, and he is excited for the Tennessee Golf Foundation to be involved with this particular program — the first golf in the area dedicated to individuals with special needs.

“We are proud to be able to partner with Pine Oaks Golf Course and Special Olympics Tennessee to make this program a reality,” Weems said. “It aligns exactly with what we do, which is promoting golf and life enhancing values. All three organizations are working closely together to make this program successful. We hope to see it offered year in and year out and grow in size.”

Pine Oaks Golf Course is a valuable instructional resource having been the longtime home to programs like First Tee and the junior golf program offered through the City’s Park and Recreation Department as well as private lessons.

“As a facility, Pine Oaks is excited to be the host for a class that Jenny Brock, Cody Weems, and the Tennessee Golf Foundation are offering these athletes,” said Bryan Bentley, golf manager for Pine Oaks Golf Course. “Being the first year of having this program, we want to do everything we can to ensure these athletes have the best time, learn as much as they can about the game of golf, and hopefully recruit more athletes to join the program in the years to come.”

Pine Oaks Golf Course is located at 1709 Buffalo Road in Johnson City. For more information, call 423.434.6250 or go to


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