Special Olympics Four Corners Invitational continues through Sunday

Hannah Grover The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Golf is one of the hobbies the Friedman family enjoys, so it was no surprise to find Sarah Friedman and her mother, Shari Friedman, out at the Piñon Hills Golf Course on Friday.

The mother-daughter duo competes as a team in the Special Olympics, alternating which one takes swings at the ball.

One of their favorite places to compete is the Four Corners Invitational in Farmington, which started with golf on Friday and continues today. The invitational is the largest Special Olympics New Mexico event outside of Albuquerque and draws almost 600 athletes here each year.

"We love to come to Farmington," Shari Friedman said.

The friendly atmosphere is what makes the Albuquerque family enjoy their time in the area.

Shari Friedman said she was impressed when a couple approached them while they were eating dinner at a restaurant and asked them about the Special Olympics.

Sarah Friedman, 25, started competing in gymnastics in the Special Olympics about 18 years ago.

"We've just added sports as she's gotten older," Shari Friedman said.

The Four Corners Invitational features three "unified" sports, meaning the athletes with disabilities compete with partners or teammates who do not have disabilities.

"It's a really good way for families and friends to play with our athletes," said Erin Gallegos, a spokeswoman for Special Olympics New Mexico.

Those sports include golf, softball and aquatics.

Gallegos said the games provide an opportunity to socialize with each other. Often, that means meeting people from different areas of the state.

The golfers formed groups to go from hole to hole in the nine-hole tournament. Emily Marquez, 49, of Santa Fe, was in the same group as the Friedmans.

Marquez has been competing in the Special Olympics since she was in second grade and, like Sarah Friedman, she has added sports.

In addition to bowling, golf and bocce ball, Marquez is a team manager for softball.

While competition is one of the attractions, Gallegos said the Special Olympics is really about camaraderie, and everyone who participates in the games gets a medal.

"Our athletes just love to play sports," Gallegos said.

During the golf tournament, Marquez summed up the attraction of the Special Olympics games in two words — "It's fun."

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.