Inaugural "Special Needs World Series" a home run for everyone

Candler — WLOS - With the calendar about to officially flip to October, Major League Baseball will begin the playoff push towards the World Series. Special Needs Sports of WNC took the last Sunday in September to have their own championship, inviting special needs athletes and their families to Bob Lewis Park in Candler for a day filled with home runs and smiles. "It just gives them a chance to get out, do things that they normally don't have the opportunity to do, but mostly just to feel included," said Donnie Jones, the founder of Special Needs Sports WNC. "That's all anybody wants in anything." He added that the group has grown from around 40 the first year to 165 this season.

Anyone with special needs, regardless of age or disability, were invited to participate. Every player got to bat and round the bases as hundreds cheered them on and accompanied them around the diamond. "It's fun to be out with friends and teammates and athletes," said James Converse, one of the participants.

Martha Scott is the guardian of Terronionia, who uses a wheelchair to get around. "We went one week to watch, and I said, 'Terrionia, I think we could do that,'" laughed Scott. "So, we started the next week. That was back in 2011, and we have been playing every spring and fall since then."

Jones' teams usually practice and play in Hendersonville, but believes the opportunity to play at a world-class facility like Bob Lewis Park will be a memorable experience for all involved. "When you see their faces, it means more to me to see them, I think, than it does to them," he said.

Chris Womack

Sunday, September 30th 2018

Andrew Institute / Headlock on Hunger Presents Inaugural National Wrestling Coaches Association CEO Leadership Academy This Saturday

(Asheville, NC) No matter where it is- in business, education, public service, or athletics, everything rises and falls on its leadership. That has been the guiding premise for the past decade of the Andrew Institute for Leadership and Public Service that has brought world renowned  leaders into our community that not only brought their thoughts, expertise, and encouragement to established and aspiring leaders but focuses on the most important part of leadership - serving others. 

This Saturday, the Andrew Institute for Leadership and Public Service, Headlock on Hunger, the Eblen Center for Social Enterprise, and WNC Wrestlers in Business, will be presenting the Inaugural National Wrestling Coaches Association CEO Leadership Academy at the Waddell Client Service Center in Asheville. 

Developed by Michigan State's Dr. Dan Gould and modeled after the NWCA's College CEO Academy, the Scholastic CEO Academy was created to help wrestling coaches in many critical areas such as:  fundraising, recruitment and retention of athletes, communication strategies, working effectively with parents, and leading as a transformational wrestling coach.  

The five-hour program is offered at no cost thanks to the sponsorship of the National Wrestling Coaches Association and the US Marine Corps. 

“We are honored to have the Andrew Institute and Headlock on Hunger to be part of this inaugural event.” states Bill Murdock, executive director of Eblen Charities. “The wrestling community has been such a big part of Eblen’s outreach since our beginning and we are very happy to help present this great event to continue our partnership with wresting for Headlock and bring the best leadership programs to so many through the Andrew Institute. We are grateful to Mark Harris, regional chairman of Headlock on Hunger and Head Wrestling Coach of Enka High School for his hard work and bringing us this great opportunity.”  

Our appreciation to our Headlock on Hunger partners Arby’s, the Brumit Restaurant Group, Ingles Markets, and Pepsi for helping to provide more than three million meals in the past four years and for making this new event to North Carolina and Asheville. If you would like further information regarding the NWCA CEO Leadership Academy or Headlock on Hunger, please contact Mark Harris at 828.231.7933 or mark.harris@bcsemail.org.

Asheville Tourists, 12 other Carolina teams support Florence relief with 'Carolina Strong'

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — The Asheville Tourists, along with other baseball teams, are coming together to help with Florence recovery efforts.

Thirteen minor league teams are involved in both North and South Carolina.

The Asheville Tourists, Burlington Royals, Carolina Mudcats, Charleston RiverDogs, Charlotte Knights, Columbia Fireflies, Down East Wood Ducks, Durham Bulls, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Hickory Crawdads, Kannapolis Intimidators, Myrtle Beach Pelicans and Winston-Salem Dash announced today that they have created a joint GoFundMe page, raising funds for branches of the American Red Cross in affected areas of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Their effort is called the "Carolina Strong Relief Fund."

The thirteen-team dual state alliance will work together to maximize fundraising efforts across the state, using the hashtag #CarolinaStrong.

Both states have received unprecedented rainfall and flooding from a tropical cyclone, and hundreds of miles of roads were closed in each state.

"We've seen time and again that the residents of North and South Carolina are strong and resilient. In difficult times we stand by one another and lift up those in need. This time won't be any different," said the General Managers of the 13 MiLB teams in a joint statement. 

According to a press release, funds raised through this campaign will be donated to the American Red Cross in affected areas of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Breakdown of the World Equestrian Games events

TRYON – While rodeo sports like barrel racing and bull riding are branded into the collective American brain, the more obscure equestrian disciplines of dressage, vaulting and eventing, and their associated rider get-ups like top hats, tails and leotards, might take a little getting used to.

The FEI World Equestrian Games, the biggest horse riding sport on the planet, will take over the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Polk County Sept. 11-23 with eight disciplines sanctioned by the Fédération Equestre Internationale, the global governing body for equestrian sports.

The WEG are held every four years in the middle of the Olympics cycle.

The FEI will award individual and team gold, silver and bronze medals for each discipline: Dressage, para-dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining and vaulting.

Michael Stone, president of the WEG Organizing Committee, said although some of these sports might not be the stuff of coffee house talk in Western North Carolina, they are well known in Europe, like his native Ireland, as well as South America, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East.

“The most popular discipline from a horse point of view is dressage, especially dressage to music, called the freestyle. It’s a bit like ice skating to music,” Stone said. 

“For the more general public, eventing is the most exciting. They go out onto the old golf course, jump huge, solid obstacles really fast. It’s a really exciting, entertaining event. They jump into water, jump out of water, up and over banks. The course is about 5,500 yards and it’s out in the countryside. It’s absolutely beautiful." 

If you only have time or money for one day at the World Equestrian Games, Stone recommends getting a ticket to eventing.

Dressage, along with para-dressage, jumping and eventing are Olympic events. The World Equestrian Games will serve as the first opportunity for U.S. athletes to secure team spots in these disciplines at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

For the other four disciplines, the WEG are the pinnacle of the sport, serving as the World Championships.

The Games are bringing some 839 athletes and their horses from six continents and 71 countries, Stone said, all at the top of their sports.

What is interesting to note is that men and women compete on equal footing, so to speak, in equestrian events.

“It’s a level playing field. Men and women compete against one another. The only discipline that breaks it up a little is vaulting, because there is an individual male and individual female competition, but those scores come together for the team score,” said Julian McPeak, marketing and communications director for U.S. Equestrian Federation, the sport’s national governing body, based in Lexington, Kentucky.

“It’s very unusual for the sporting world. Equestrian is one of only two Olympic disciplines that works like this – sailing is the other,” she said.

Get to know your World Equestrian Game disciplines

Dressage

Dressage, which has roots in ancient Greece, is considered the highest expression of horse training. The term “dressage” means “training” in French.

The horse has to perform at a walk, trot and canter, and all tests are ridden from memory, following a prescribed pattern of movements. The only exception is the freestyle, which is specially choreographed for each horse and is performed to music.

Experts say that dressage is the most technically difficult of the equestrian disciplines, but perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing. In addition to the ballet-like movements of the horses, the riders adhere to a strict dress code that includes black or dark top hat and tail coat or jacket, white pants and gloves.

“It’s quite technical to understand it. It’s beautiful to watch. The horses are really beautiful. The athletes are all dressed up in top hat and tails. It’s a really elegant sport,” Stone said. “But to really follow it, you need to understand it.”

Horse and rider are evaluated subjectively by a seven-judge panel, much like in ice skating, on their almost imperceptible communication by which the rider uses his or her hands, legs and weight in the seat lead the horse through a series of movements or “tests."

The dressage challenges are divided into three categories: the Grand Prix, the Grand Prix Special and the highlight, the Grand Prix Freestyle, in which each team performs a routine to its chosen musical composition.

The first day of competition features the Grand Prix – the highest level of competition. It  is a test composed of movements that include passage (a powerful trot); piaffe (a slow, elevated trot in place, or not moving forward); pirouette (a circle the horse makes with its front end around a smaller circle made by the hind end); and flying changes (when the horses front and hind legs change leads at the same time).

The Helgstrand Dressage takes place over four days, Sept. 12-14 and 16. Points are tallied for an overall percentage. All dressage events will be held in the main stadium, rain or shine.

Para-dressage

Para-dressage is the only equestrian event included in the Paralympic Games. The discipline has the same basic rules as conventional dressage, but the riders are divided into different competition grades based on their functional abilities, Stone said.

“Some people have lost a leg or both legs or an arm or are blind, or have multiple sclerosis, and classified into similar groups to ride against each other,” Stone said. “It’s a really emotional event to watch.”

Para-dressage became the eighth FEI-regulated discipline in 2006 and joined the World Equestrian Games four years later, creating one of the few sporting competitions in the world featuring events for both able-bodied athletes and those with impairments.

The Adequan Para-Dressage competitors are tested on a series of moves at different paces depending on their physical ability, with some being judged at the walk, trot and canter, some at just the walk and trot, and others only at walking speed.

Competition takes place over four days, Sept. 18, 19, 21 and 22.

Driving

This is a full-throttle event in which a three-member team work together to navigate a carriage pulled by four horses, also known as four-in-hand, and encompasses three phases of competitions in three different types of carriages spread over three days: Dressage, Marathon and Cones.

According to the FEI, dressage involves performing a sequence of compulsory figures within a 100-by-40-meter rectangle. Movements, which must be executed from memory, include speed and gait transitions, circles of different sizes and halts.

The marathon is a "spectacular" time trial run over a course including natural hazards such as sharp turns, water and steep hills, and artificial ones such as labyrinths. It tests the horses’ fitness and stamina and the driver’s judgment of pace and horse control.

Obstacle driving – or cones – tests the fitness, obedience and suppleness of the horses after the marathon, as well as the skill and competence of the driver who must weave cleanly through a narrow track outlined by cones with balls balanced on top.

“If they hit a cone and the tennis ball falls off, they get penalized. Whoever goes the fastest and has the fewest penalties wins,” he said.

The event takes place Sept. 21-23 in the new driving stadium.

Endurance

Endurance, which takes place Sept. 12, is a long-distance race against the clock featuring one day, one horse and 100 miles, in the ultimate test of the partnership between horse and rider.

Riders go out in 25-mile loops through North and South Carolina, then stop for mandatory rests and a wide range of veterinary checks, Stone said, to ensure the horse’s and rider’s welfare over such a long distance.

“If a horse is a bit lame, has metabolic issues, if its heart rate is too high, they get taken out,” he said. “It’s a pretty simple competition.”

Endurance tests the speed and stamina of a horse and challenges the rider over their effective use of pace, thorough knowledge of their horse’s capabilities and ability to cross all kinds of terrain. Although the rides are timed, the emphasis is on finishing in good condition rather than coming in first, according to FEI.

Endurance started as a sport in the United States, as a way for the U.S. cavalry to test its horses on a five-day, 300-mile ride. It became a competitive sport in the 1950s.

The track features natural terrain, starting and finishing on the TIEC main property, allowing easy access for spectators to catch the racy thrills up close.

Eventing

Eventing, one of the three Olympic equestrian disciplines, is known as the triathlon of the equestrian world. Competition is held over three days in dressage, cross-country, and jumping, with the same horse for each phase of competition.

Eventing, which is sponsored by Mars, Inc., tests the horse and rider in all aspects of horsemanship and athleticism.

“It derives from the military. In Europe, the name of the competition is ‘military,’” Stone said.

“The idea was you had a horse you could control during dressage, was strong and fit enough to gallop cross country, but strong enough that even being tired after cross country, it could come out and show jump,” Stone said.

Athletes will ride the same horse over three days. Typically the best eventing horses are Irish Thoroughbreds, Stone said.

Throughout the three days, Sept. 13-15, each phase is scored, and penalties carry over from each day’s round. The goal is to accumulate as few faults as possible over the three days.

Jumping

Jumping, also known in the United States as Show Jumping, is the most popular equestrian sport world-wide, Stone said, inducing lots of spectator breath-holding. It is also an Olympic discipline.

The four-day event builds up to a final on Sept. 23, the last day of competition. Jumping showcases a “spectacular mix of courage, control, and technical ability.” Athletes compete four to a team and one as an individual on a timed course urging their horses over a series of 10 to 13 “knockable” obstacles, or "jumps," some of which may be double or triple combinations, with penalties incurred for each obstacle knocked down or refused.

“They have to leave all the jumps standing. The jumps fall very easily. And they are complicated fences with distances that are irregular,” Stone said.

Fence heights range from 1.55 meters to 1.65 meters (5 feet to 5 feet 4 inches) over the three days of competition. The water jump must be used at least three times and can be no wider than 4 meters (13.1 feet).

The event will take place in the main arena Sept. 19-21 and 23.

Winners are determined by an accumulated score over the course of the days, with penalties for knocking jumps down, or going too slowly.

Reining

Reining is the only FEI World Equestrian Games western discipline, so this is where to get your cowboy fix. Stone calls it a “sort of cowboy dressage,” since the movements come from the working of horses when herding cattle.

It is team and individual judged event, as in dressage, designed to show the athletic ability of ranch-type horses in an arena setting.

Cattle-wrangling movements (without the cattle) include 360-degree spins, where a horse must go round in circles, flying lead changes, fast cantering and slow cantering, and slides – where horses gallop as fast as they can down the arena into a stop where the horse has to slide, while keeping its front feet moving, Stone said.

Instead of fancy coat tails, reining athletes must wear western attire while competing, including a long sleeve shirt with collar, cowboy boots and western hat or safety helmet.

Reining will take place Sept. 12, 13 and 15 in the new indoor arena.

In addition to the sliding and spinning, reining should be popular with an American crowd since the U.S. has dominated the sport for years, Stone said, considering the all-American quarter horse is the best reining horse.

Vaulting

Perhaps the most obscure of equestrian events, vaulting is simply gymnastics on horseback. It has a history as an equestrian act at circuses, but it is at least 2,000 years old.

All vaulting routines - team, individual, and freestyle - are performed by athletes in gymnast uniforms on the back of a cantering horse, traveling in a circle and attached to a lunge line. Competitors are judged on their ability to smoothly execute required movements demonstrating strength, flexibility and balance. The horses are also judged on their performance.

“Most equestrian sports developed from the military. Vaulting was a way of getting military to become comfortable on horses, to jump on and jump off, to build confidence on a horse and to build fitness,” Stone said.

It’s evolved over the years to become one of the most popular spectator sports, and children as young as 10 years old can compete.

“It’s really spectacular. It’s really different,” he said. “It’s not what most people imagine an equestrian sport is.”

If you go..

The FEI World Equestrian Games run from Sept. 11-23 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. Tickets and more information available at tryon2018.com.

Karen Chávez, Asheville Citizen Times

Asheville Spartan Race puts 77-year-old runner closer to his lofty goal

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Thousands of runners will breathe a sigh of relief when they cross the finish line of the Asheville Super, one of two Spartan Races returning for the fourth year to the quarry at Grove Stone & Sand on Aug. 4 and 5. Paul Lachance will take a few breaths, head to his hotel and get ready to do it all again the next day.

That’s because the 77-year-old cancer survivor will be back on the course the next day to run the Asheville Sprint, putting him one race closer to his goal of completing 15 Spartan Races in 2018.

Just four years ago competing in even a single Spartan Race would’ve seemed impossible for the Grand Junction, Colorado resident, who will travel to Western North Carolina for the first time to participate in the Asheville Super and Sprint Weekend, which takes place in Black Mountain, just outside the city from which it borrows its name.

“It started in 2014, after my heart attack, when I was looking on the internet for exercises and things of that nature,” Lachance said in a phone interview a few days before the race. “I came across a Spartan Race video and said to myself ‘I can do that.’”

He signed up for the shortest of the Spartan Races. The Sprint is over three miles and consists of over 20 obstacles, including flaming logs and towering walls.

“Sometimes they have a bucket-carry,” Lachance said. “What they like to do is find these hills, and you have a five gallon bucket filled with rocks, and you have to carry that bucket up the hill like 100 yards or so. It gets heavy.”

For obstacles that runners can’t complete there’s a penalty of burpees, or squat thrust, that must be performed within a designated area before returning to the course.

Lachance was quickly hooked on the races and began staying in shape to run more. In 2016 he completed what the Spartan website (spartan.com) calls the “ultimate Spartan achievement.” A Trifecta requires runners to complete three Spartan races of different distances within a calendar year, a feat Lachance accomplished three time in 2016 and four last year. 

"My goal is to add one Trifecta a year until I reach the age of 80," he said. "That will be eight Trifectas at 80."

But much like a Spartan Race, life placed an obstacle directly in Lachance's path at the end of last year. 

"I was diagnosed with a lump in my jaw last December," he said. "It came back positive for skin cancer and I had surgery to remove it after Christmas."

Not only did the radiation and chemotherapy treatment, which Lachance started undergoing in January, cause him to lose around 50 pounds, it also kept him from running Spartan Races. 

"I kept bugging the oncologist about letting me run," he said. "But he wouldn't let me."

While the treatment took its toll on Lachance physically, he gained strength in other ways, 

"I know I'm a little slower this year than in past years," he said. "But mentally I think I'm stronger than I've ever been. I'm more resolved now to get these five Trifectas done this year."

Doing so will be no easy task. 

Lachance completed a Super (eight-10 miles with 24-29 obstacles) and Sprint in Jacksonville, Florida in April and followed those up with another Super and Sprint weekend at Fort Carson in Colorado. He picked up another Super in Austin, Texas in May before a thunderstorm forced the cancellation of the subsequent Sprint.

The races at Grove Stone & Sand will get him almost halfway to his goal. 

"My body will let me finish strong," he said. "I'm in the best shape of my life right now. I've been training with a Spartan coach the last few weeks and I can feel my body mending itself."

In fact, Lachance has seen a significant reduction in the amount of medication he needs in the wake of his quadruple bypass surgery following his heart attack. 

"Doing these races has given me a whole new outlook on life," he said. "In a lot of ways I feel like I'm a better person than I was before."

His experience makes Lachance want to encourage others to try one of the races. 

"I had a guy tell me 'I need to do one of those one day,'" Lachance said. "I told him he only needed two feet to get out there and try."

It's not about your time, Lachance added, it's about the sense of accomplishment. 

"I'm a very slow runner, but at least I'm out there," he said. "At the end of the race I get the same medal and banana that everyone else gets, but there's no better feeling than crossing that fire line at the end."

Fred McCormick, Black Mountain News

Beyond the Scoreboard: Tourists become 'Asheville Hippies' for Thirsty Thursday

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Having some fun for a great cause will be theme when the Asheville Tourists host the Greenville Drive in a first-place showdown at McCormick Field on Thirsty Thursday.

The Tourists will transform into the “Asheville Hippies,” wearing far-out, customized jerseys for the game with a 7:05 p.m. start.

The promotion was a big hit last year when the two teams met, and once again the game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off, with proceeds benefitting Vs. Cancer, an organization that helps local patients.

 (Photo courtesy of Asheville Tourists)

(Photo courtesy of Asheville Tourists)

Fans can bid on the jerseys at AshevilleHippies.com. The bidding closes at noon Sunday.

The Drive and the Tourists were the two worst teams in the South Atlantic League in the first half of the season, but are tied for first in the second-half division race.

The Thirsty Thursday game begins an eight-game homestand for Asheville (14-10).

The Tourists bounced back from a four-game losing streak to win three of four in their most recent series at Greensboro.

The slugging offense pounded out 14 home runs in the three wins vs. Greensboro.

Last year’s “Hippies” game promotion was a big hit with fans, and the team raised $2,200 in jersey sales to benefit the Asheville Tourists/Eblen Charities Children’s Fund, a non-profit that buys shoes for children in Buncombe County.

Asheville decided to bring back the Hippies in 2018 in large part due to the success of the promotion both in the community and the amount of money it raised.

“Last season we raised over $2,200 for the Asheville Tourists Children’s Fund,” said Tourists president Brian DeWine. “We decided to poke a little fun at ourselves and we’re happy to do it again.”

In addition to the jersey auction, Asheville Hippies t-shirts, caps, and other Hippies merchandise are available for fans to purchase at TheTouristsTrap.com.

Beyond the Scoreboard: Parker wins record seventh Skyview golf title

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Greg Parker has played steady, accomplished golf for more than 35 years, through a collegiate and pro career that has established the Old Fort native and Marion resident as one of the best from WNC to ever tee it up.

The 52-year-old head pro at Marion Lake Club added to that impressive legacy Thursday with a record-breaking seventh Skyview golf title.

Putting on one of the best 54-hole efforts in the tournament’s 59-year history, Parker posted a three-day total of 20-under to edge the equally brilliant Noah Ratner by two shots at Asheville Golf Course.

Parker (67-62-67-196) finished with 23 birdies to win yet another Skyview, and though official records are not kept, he is believed to be the first of a long list of notable champions – including Chuck Thorpe, Shane Thompson, Richard Clark, Lee Elder and Jesse Allen – to win seven times.

“They are all special, but this one was a little extra special,” said Parker, who took home the $2,500 first place prize after winning the title for the first time since 2014.

“When you get older you tend to cling to these wins because you don’t know how many more there will be,” he said. “It’s nice to know I can still be competitive and play well enough to win.”

On his 27th birthday, Ratner was the hard-luck second-place finisher, finishing 18-under after nearly matching Parker’s spectacular total of 22 birdies over 54 holes.

Riding in the same cart the last two days, Parker and Ratner combined for 34 birdies over the last 36 holes, an incredible display of shot-making and scoring.

The tournament came down to the par-5 17th, where a bad bounce and bad luck cost Ratner, who trailed Parker by one.

After booming his drive on the 491-yard hole, Ratner – who won the Skyview in 2015 and ’16 - hit a 6-iron approach just a few yards left of the green.

His ball hit a cart path, bounced through the golf cart of a spectator and went out of bounds. Ratner made a bogey-6, while Parker got up and down from a greenside bunker with a 10-foot birdie putt for a three-shot lead.

“I was aiming 30 yards right and just pulled it a little, and the wind picked up and caught it,” said Ratner, who received $1,900 for finishing second. “I played great, Greg just played a little better.”

“Noah played every bit as well as I did,” said Parker. “It was a great shootout the last two days, and especially today.”

Richard Clark, another multiple Skyview winner, finished third at 13-under and earned $1,500.

Austin Fisher of Hendersonville, a rising senior on the Brevard College golf team, won the amateur division at 8-under, one shot ahead of Kyle Scruggs of Gaffney, S.C. Scruggs missed a putt inside four feet on the final hole that would have forced a playoff.

Tommy White of Asheville waltzed to an eight-shot victory over Byron Bailey in the senior amateur division. White shot 11-under.

59th Skyview Pro/Am Tournament
Final Round at Asheville Golf Course

Pro/Senior Pro Division

  • Greg Parker 67-62-67-196 $2,500
  • Noah Ratner 66-65-67-198 $1,900
  • Richard Clark 66-69-68-203 $1,500
  • Jesse Allen 68-70-66-204 $1,200
  • Matt Cook 70-68-69-207 $1,000
  • Ryan Smith 72-67-70-209 $750
  • Phil Nickell 71-67-71-209 $750
  • Skip Taylor 67-74-69-210 $700
  • Tommy Padgett 71-71-71-213 $600
  • Robbie Biershenk 70-70-74-214 $550
  • Paul Everett 71-70-73-214 $550

Amateur

  • Austin Fisher 68-65-75-208
  • Kyle Scruggs 71-67-71-209
  • Joseph Squires 69-70-72-211
  • Joshua Crisp 71-69-71-211
  • Thomas Garbee 73-70-78-221
  • Christopher Fry 76-70-75-221
  • Woodruff Logan 79-71-71-221
  • Cody Mincey 73-71-79-223
  • Nicholas Boone 77-74-73-224

Senior Amateur

  • Tommy White 68-66-71-205
  • Byron Bailey 71-70-72-213
  • Jeff Long 76-69-69-214
  • Bourgin Boyd 71-73-74-218
  • Scott Pritchard 72-70-81-223
  • Brandon Godfrey 79-71-74-224
  • Cletis Dozier 73-79-72-224
  • Ivory Walker 69-78-78-225
  • Jerry Wilkins 79-72-76-227

Beyond the Scoreboard: Skyview golf returns for 59th straight year

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Since 1960, the Skyview Pro-Amateur Benefit Golf Tournament has been a fixture on the local sports scene.

A 54-hole stroke-play event at Asheville Golf Course, the Skyview will be contested for the 59th straight year on July 10-12.

It began as a tournament for African-Americans only, named the Skyview All-Negro Open, with a small field and a $300 purse in the year John Kennedy was elected president.

Two years later, tournament founder and director Charles Collette and others in the Skyview Golf Association decided to admit Caucasians, and the tournament has been a blend of races ever since.

In its heyday, black golfers of national and international fame like Lee Elder and Charles Sifford Jr. played in the Skyview, along with celebrities like world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis.

Elder, a PGA Tour player who was the first African-American to play in the Masters, won the Skyview three straight years in the 1960s.

At the height of its popularity 20 to 30 years ago, the Skyview was part of the black North American Golf Association tour, and more than 200 local and national players would compete at the Asheville course, a Donald Ross design that opened in 1927.

After Collette died in the early 1970s, Billy Gardenhight took over as tourney director, and more than 40 years later he is still part of the leadership group that conducts the event each year.

Gardenhight remembers a time in his youth when he caddied at AGC and black golfers were only allowed to play on Mondays.

“We’ve come along way, with the culture and with the tournament,” said Gardenhight, a member of the Black Golfers Hall of Fame.

“We want to keep this tradition going and make it bigger and better.”

Fees for this year’s event are $275 for pros and senior pros and $160 for amateurs. Players who register early will save $15 off the entry fee. Saturday is the deadline to register early.

The pros and senior pros will compete for a purse that will be as much as $13,000 if there is a full field.

The amateurs tee off at 8 a.m. each day and the pros and senior pros begin at 2 p.m. all three days, both with shotgun starts.

Interest in the Skyview has waned in recent years, with the total field dipping into two digits, so tourney officials and AGC employees are working together to create more support and participation in the event.

Local businesses like Ingles and Postnet have made contributions, and the tourney will feature tee signs with other local businesses and individuals signed up as sponsors.

Veteran local player Phil Nickell won last year’s pro division, shooting 11-under par in the 36-hole event. Candler Rice (-4) won the amateur division.

Local pro Noah Ratner won the pro division in 2015 and ’16.

Registration forms for the tourney are available at the AGC pro shop. For more information or to register, call Lee Shephard (335-6377), Fred Woods (423-8485), Ivory Walker (774-5534) or Gardenhight (231-0860). Care to comment? Contact at keithjarrettasheville@gmail.com

Youth Leaders Examine Soccer and English as a Second Language in Asheville, North Carolina

[Asheville] — As part of the U.S. Department of State’s Sports Diplomacy Division programs, 15 participants from Albania, Belgium, and Guatemala will spend June 30 - July 14, 2018, in Asheville examining English as a Second Language through soccer. Xplore USA will host the group for their annual ESL summer camp. Managed by FHI 360, Sports Visitors are non-elite youth athletes, coaches, and administrators who travel to the United States for a fast-paced short-term sports cultural exchange with American peers and sports practitioners. During the program, they participate in clinics and sessions on leadership, team-building and conflict resolution, as well as on America’s experience with inclusion and equity in sport.

The Sports Visitor Program creates a network of leaders around the world who have firsthand experience and understanding of U.S. culture, society, and values, through exploring America’s athletic landscape -from community based programs to professional sports. Sports Visitors take part in capacity building, leadership, and sports-based programs that help shape their future educational and employment goals and aspirations.  Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Sports Visitor Program connects participants to their peers in the United States and creates important opportunities for Americans to engage with individuals from other countries, thereby deepening trust and understanding between the United States and other countries and cultures.

The Sports Visitor participants from Albania, Belgium, and Guatemala are joined by FHI 360 staff for the entirety of their visit and together with U.S. Department of State personnel, ensure the program is adapted to U.S. foreign policy goals and participant interests.

While in Asheville, the participants will participate in workshops on Sports and Society in the U.S., Civic Engagement, English as a Second Language, and Leadership; collaborate with the local University soccer team; engage in team building activities; and attend soccer practice with the Asheville School. This program is an ideal opportunity to use a non-political force to bring young athletes together with other athletes from around the world. They will learn that they have more in common than they could have imagined. They will build networks and friendships that will last beyond the project's completion. They will learn about teamwork, improve their English language competency, enhance their soccer skills, and learn how to use the tools they gain in the United States to be leaders in their communities.

Through home stays, Sports Visitor participants will experience American family life.  Additionally, they will take part in several cultural and community activities, including volunteering at Special Olympics North Carolina, going white water rafting, attending 4th of July celebrations, and attending a local baseball game.  

The Sports Visitor Program has brought more than 2,000 current and future leaders from all over the world to the United States. Participants have come from every world region and more than 100 different countries and growing.

For more information, please contact Monika Wilcox at mwilcox@fhi360.org or visit our website at www.sportsvisitor.org.  Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @Exchanges360.

For U.S. Department of State press inquiries, contact ECA-Press@state.gov.  To learn more about State Department sports diplomacy, follow us on Twitter (@SportsDiplomacy) and Facebook (@SportsDiplomacyDivision).

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