United States Army veteran Randy Nantz discusses his experience at the 2019 Brightspot Unified Challenge and how his life has been in the year since with Special Olympics golfer and fellow competitor, Matthew Gang.
Matthew Gang: Did you have fun playing last year at Creighton Farms?
Randy Nantz: It was truly special. The group of veteran guys that I came with was a great group and I didn't know really what to expect. It was my first year, but then being with those guys, the Special Olympic guys, and the students from the First Tee program, you know, everybody was just outstanding. It was really a great experience for me.
Gang: I totally agree. I played with Claire from the First Tee, who showed up playing awesome, great golf. What was your best memory at the golf course?
But, you know, that's one of the things I've learned as an adaptive athlete and even in my military career: you have to adapt to and overcome whatever situation you're presented.
Nantz: I think just spending time, you know, with all the folks there. I mean, certainly I could have played better golf...but that's most days for most of us. It was still a great experience. I guess my favorite memory would be either the beginning or the end. We're all together in one place and kind of celebrating what was about to happen or in the end, what just happened. I think those were my two best memories.
Gang: I totally agree. In my memory, it was the eighteenth hole. It was the long drive challenge hole and you had to hit it on the fairway or the green. I didn't make it on the green...so it was like, ugh!
Nantz: Ha! I remember the long drive hole because my team won the long drive contest and that was probably the best drive I hit all week! It came at the exact moment that I needed it to.
Gang: Yeah, my partner in the long drive hit her ball perfect too! What else did you like about your trip to DC?
Nantz: I've been there before, you know, I mean, I've been to Arlington of course, but it's always good to go back. One of the guys that I know that is now interned there, I was at his funeral...but I hadn't been out to the site since he'd been put to rest in Arlington, so it was good to go by there. And then just walking through all the monuments, you know, and even along the reflecting pool there it was really surreal and really cool to be able to walk around the monuments and through all that.
Gang: How has your life changed in light of the pandemic?
Nantz: Since I saw you last, I've been working on becoming a physical trainer. Since I turned into an adaptive athlete, I now help mentor other adaptive athletes. COVID-19 has definitely changed my daily routine where, you know, I'm not always up at the gym either training myself or training someone else, but I've been able to basically just focus on myself and my family. We've spent some good family time together. Normally we're going 10 different directions at the same time–so there's been some good parts to it, you know. But we're like everybody else, it kind of stinks to have to sit at home all the time. We just pray that this thing is going to move on, and then, at some point, we can return to somewhat of a more normal life than what we are right now. But, you know, that's one of the things I've learned as an adaptive athlete and even in my military career: you have to adapt to and overcome whatever situation you're presented. I mean, there's nothing we can do about it and all of a sudden change COVID or the systems in place, so we just have to learn how to adapt and overcome in our own environment in a positive manner, so that we can still be productive but protective also.
Gang: Are there any other thoughts you'd like to share about last year's challenge?
Nantz: I would just like to say I was truly grateful for the opportunity to get to play in [the Brightspot Unified Challenge]. I'm sure sad, we didn't get to all meet in person this year, and do it again, but hopefully next year, in 2021, we'll be back on track.