By Tim Unruh
Happiness hydrated happy hearts June 7 at Great Life Golf & Fitness as local amateurs enjoyed some social hours on the 18-hole course.
Lunchtime approached as one foursome rounded the turn in reverse. Steven Plott sported a big bearded grin as he prepared to tee off on the first green.
“We were 2 under (par), but eagled 18, and now we’re 4 under,” he said while moving ahead on the par 71 course in southeastern Salina.
“Noah (Bradley) hit the perfect drive,” Plott said as United Capital Management’s ninth annual Charity Golf Tournament neared the halfway mark. He is a junior portfolio manager at the Salina firm led by Chad Koehn, president and investment consultant.
UCM provided the barbecue meal, catered by Howard Wagyu, along with the green fees and cart rentals.
Also riding the convoy of golf carts were Josh Anguiana and foursome captain Greg Plott (Steven’s dad), all of Salina.
“It’s a team effort,” Greg said.
Spirited chatter from a small gallery of spectators, members and volunteers of The Arc of Saline County, Inc. sponsor of the Blue Thunder Special Olympics team, turned quiet as duffers lined up their shots over the fairway.
But nobody really cared if silence was broken during the event that raised $8,082 for Blue Thunder.
“It’s a great day at Great Life,” Steven Plott said, despite losing track of his drive.
“It was hard to determine who was having a better time,” said Koehn, whose company has staged the golf tournament seven straight years, twice for Blue Thunder.
“We do it for for them, and also for us,” he said. “When I work with families still raising a child with special needs, given the level of patience they have, and the reality they have on life, they’re very easy, very unselfish people to deal with.”
With a 17-under-par score of 54, the foursome of Ryan Kolzow, registered principal at UCM, Michael Hall, both of Salina, Kalan Norton, of Overland Park, and Jason Buschbom, of McPherson, took home the title during the benefit tournament.
The tournament brought 92 players — 23 teams — to the course, and produced unbridled joy to members of the Blue Thunder Special Olympics team.
“This is awesome. I love spending time with friends,” said David Becker of Salina. He works as a sacker at the Dillons store at Cloud and Ohio streets. Among his colleagues at the store are Ty Koehn, Chad Koehn’s son, who was proud to introduce a friend, Luke Gleason, who completed a foursome formed by his father, Nick Gleason.
“I’m just out here for fun,” said Luke, a student at Emporia State University, majoring in health and human performance, with a minor in coaching and entrepreneurship. In the offseason, he works at Sharp Performance in Salina.
“Ty and I are good buddies. We go out to eat and to events,” said Luke, a 2021 Southeast of Saline High School graduate.
Money raised at the golf tournament — along with an ice cream social and chili feed at other times during the year — helps send more than 100 Blue Thunder athletes to events all over the state.
Becker was named most inspirational athlete March 18 at Special Olympics state basketball tournament in Hays. During the spring state event in Maize, he placed first in tennis and shot put, said Wendy Holtz, Blue Thunder athletic director.
The organization supports swimming, track and field, volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, tennis, and bowling, as part of the Special Olympics program. Disc golf and yoga are among non-Special Olympics activities also covered by The Arc of Saline County.
All team members were treated like celebrities at the golf tournament.
“This is amazing,” said Pam Anderson of Salina, David Becker’s aunt.
“Special Olympics is a good program for these guys,” she said, “and it’s wonderful, all the people who showed up and helped make this (golf tournament) happen.”
Watching the tournament “makes your heart melt, and makes me feel great,” said Lisa Gormley, of Salina, whose daughter Jennifer is on the team.
“We need them more than they need us,” Chad Koehn said. “It’s great to spend part of the day with people who have no concern over interest rates, stocks and politics.”
Growing up in Montezuma, not far from Dodge City in southwest Kansas, his parents adopted two children with special needs. Koehn recalled watching a Special Olympics basketball game in Hays, when an opposing player sank a game winning shot from six feet beyond the three-point line.
“I stood up and cheered. It was more of a feeling of watching a knockout punch at a boxing match,” Chad Koehn recalled. “I was so impressed. It didn’t matter that he was on the other team. I went up to take a picture with him, congratulated him. That guy will always talk about that shot and that somebody wanted his picture.”
Same goes with the golf tournament.
“It makes them all feel special,” Koehn said. “Having a newspaper reporter there, doing a story, makes them all feel like big shots.”
- Anyone interested in donating to the Blue Thunder Capital Campaign may send a check to The Arc of Saline County Inc., P.O.Box 362, Salina, KS, 67402. To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Golf tournament sponsors: United Capital Management of Kansas; Kennedy Berkley Attorneys at Law; Great Life Golf & Fitness; Howard Wagyu; Dan & Peggy Acheson; Coldwell Banker APW Realtors; Avek IP; Heartland Dermatology; Barolo Grille; Gambino’s Pizza; CopyCo; Robert Pruitt State Farm; Martinelli’s Little Italy; Lancaster Construction; Rod’s Service Station; Josh, Jake & Bekah Stack; Daimaru Steakhouse & Sushi Bar; Long McArthur Ford; Peterson Monuments & Design; Peggy Cornett Coldicott; The Bank of Tescott; Sunset Sinners Whiskey Barrel Rock; Choices Network, Inc.; and Snack Attack