Local Golfer Following Her Dream – Birth on Team Canada for Special Olympics

Good Luck to Mandy Demerse as she chases her golfing dreams. The article below is direct for The Nugget in North Bay, Ontario.

Special Olympics golfer swinging for berth at world championships

Dave Dale / The Nugget   Saturday, May 5, 2018 1:02:08 EDT AM

There are a lot of rain-weary golfers in the North Bay area but none are looking forward to teeing up this season more than Mandy Demerse.

Demerse, 29, is a member of Team Ontario heading to the Special Olympics National Summer Games championships in Antigonish, N.S., in August. And if she can shoot as well as her potential, she’ll earn a berth on Team Canada for the World Games in Abu Dhabi in March 2019.

But it’s not a solo effort as she’s coached by Glenn Cundari, PGA of Canada’s technical director and local golf professional, with his wife, Michelle, her caddie.

“She’s always positive and helps me not be so hard on myself,” Demerse said about Michelle, who accompanied her to Seattle, WA, last year where she won gold at the North American championships. They also were together at the provincials in Caledon, where she finished with a silver medal to earn a spot on Team Ontario.

“It was so cool, just the atmosphere,” Demerse said of her trip to the Rocky Mountains. “I had never been in a competition like that.”

And Glenn Cundari, who heads up the North Bay Special Olympics Golf Program, has been named the Team Canada golf coach for the world event.

Cundari said Demerse has what it takes to be successful on the course.

“It’s her spirit. She loves golf and because she loves it, she has no problem putting in the extra practice and work on things like her nutritional behaviour,” Cundari said, adding that they’re working on the psychology aspect to get her ready for the pressure.

He also said Demerse’s recent foray into powerlifting under the guidance of local expert Larry Shepherd is helping building physical strength and stamina. Her first lifting competition is actually this Sunday at the annual Chris Thacker Memorial Special Olympics meet being held at Canadore College’s Commerce Court Campus.

“We’re also working on emotional control and social skills, all those things we’re all trying to get better at,” he said, noting she’ll have one more big event before the nationals to prepare in a competitive atmosphere.

Demerse gets to team up with her golf idol, Tess Trojan, for the North Bay Golf and Country Club’s Ladies Doubles Invitational June 23-24.

Demerse, who also plays defence for the North Stars Special Needs Hockey Club, noted that Trojan also plays hockey.

They’ll play in an integrated generic division as part of the competitive event.

Demerse said she hopes to improve on her showing in Seattle where one round got away from her.

“I’ll know more what to expect,” she said, referring to both the North Bay event and the nationals on the East Coast.

She’ll be working on employing “cap level golf” to keep focussed, explaining it means keeping your head up rather than hanging it down when something doesn’t go her way.

“Even if you do a bad shot, keep your focus and keep looking ahead (with your cap visor up and parallel to the ground while walking toward your ball),” Demerse said.

She has a lot of respect for Cundari’s coaching ability, saying he has a solid background and can be serious when needed to get her focussed.

Cundari said he got into Special Olympics coaching because PGA in Canada wanted to support the cause and that led to forming a program here in North Bay. And it has quickly become strong with six participants in 2016 tripling the next year and there’s 25 adults expected to take part this season.

North Bay, which has 124 Special Olympics athletes in 14 different sports, also has the only junior golf program in the country.

Cundari said he’s proud to say his whole family is involved, with son Nick and daughter Megan both assisting with the program that is generously hosted at Pinewood Park Golf Course.

Joining Demerse in Antigonish are eight other North Bay athletes, with various fundraising events taking place to help cover expenses such as training camps, transportation, accommodation, meals and uniforms.

Other athletes attending the games include Nick Fung, Mike Bailey and Clarista Ardiel (track and field), Chris O’Connor, Susan Lang and Jackelyn Osborne (bocce) Jon Touw and Sharon Kostyk (swimming).

The next fundraiser is June 2 with a Special Olympics mini-putt tournament being held at King Cone Cafe on Lakeshore Drive. For information on how community members can help, email: glenncundari@gmail.com

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