Chris Cash was already an accomplished athlete when he took up an offer from neighbor Tom King to hit a few balls at a local golf course.
Mr. Cash, 39, of Maumee had competed in tennis, basketball, bowling, softball, and volleyball events for the Lucas County Special Olympics program.
“One day we were talking. We decided to go to the driving range,” Mr. King recalled about how he introduced Mr. Cash to the sport about five years ago.
Tom King, left, and Chris Cash are headed to the 2018 Special Olympics Summer Games in Seattle.
The two have come a long way since that day.
They are now preparing for the biggest competition available to Special Olympians.
Last year, Mr. Cash, who has Down syndrome, teamed with Mr. King to qualify for the Ohio Special Olympics golf championship in Cincinnati after competing in a tournament in Napoleon.
The pair ended up winning the gold medal in the unified golf event. They were selected in August to represent Ohio in next summer’s Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
In preparation for their trip, Mr. Cash and Mr. King will continue their weekly routine of playing nine holes every Wednesday, weather permitting, at Crosswinds Golf Course in Perrysburg Township. They also plan to spend time on the driving range and on the practice putting greens.
Tom King and Chris Cash compete in Unified Golf. They began golfing together five years ago and won the gold medal in the Special Olympics Ohio Summer Games in 2016.
Mr. Cash said he has three rules he expects his golf partner to follow in competition.
“Don’t hit the ball into the water, don’t hit it into the woods, and don’t embarrass me,” he said.
In contrast, Mr. King has a more casual approach to the game.
“Keep your head down and let it fly,” he said of the advice he gives to his partner.
Mr. King, 68, who works in technical sales in electric utilities, said he volunteers for several organizations and causes, including Racing For Recovery.
He said he is both a mentor and friend to Mr. Cash.
He doesn’t feel any pressure to win; instead, he enjoys spending time with him. He said he feels that his work with Special Olympics is his way to give back to the community.
“It is fun playing golf with Chris,” he said.
Mr. Cash is chairman of the Lucas County Special Olympics Athletic Leadership Committee. He also works at Georgette’s coffee shop in Maumee.
Kelley Watson, a recreation specialist who directs the Special Olympics program for Lucas County Developmental Disabilities, said more than 300 people are registered to participate in 13 different sport programs.
“We have a number of athletes who play year round in different sports,” she said.