Going and getting the gold

GALLOWAY, N.J. - The Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational may have been Jake Alexopoulos's first major event since 2006, but the result was the same.

Alexopoulos won the gold medal, shooting 287 over the course of the three day tournament - three strokes better than second place finisher Chris Holmes of Texas. In 2006, Jake won the gold medal in Iowa for the Vermont State team.

"I've learned that Jake's so easy going he wouldn't have cared if he got gold, silver or bronze," said John Alexopoulos, Jake's father who caddied for him during the tournament. "He had a great time, played very well, I was very proud of him, [but] he just has a knack of winning a lot of gold medals. It's one of those knack's of athleticism and [being] very consistent."

The lone representative of Vermont, Jake Alexopolous competed against 24 other golfers in Level 5, Division B2. Level 5 is the highest level of competition while B2 refers to the blue tees in the tee box, which are the farthest away.

The event was held at Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club, Pine & Bay Courses, which also host the ShopRite LPGA Classic every year - difficult courses which John Alexopouls said were made that much harder during the first two rounds of the tournament because of the wind.

"I didn't realize how hard they would make the course," said John Alexopoulos. "The course, the LPGA plays it every year down there. So, both the rough and the green were extremely hard. As a player and a caddie I had no idea how hard the course was. I was so proud of him. He played so consistently every round."

During the three-day tournament, Jake Alexopoulos shot a 97 on day 1, a 93 on day 2, and a 97 on day 3 to win the gold medal.

Jake Alexopoulos, who works at Ekwanok and Equinox - who along with Manchester Country Club sponsored Jake in the tournament - plays four to five times a week at all three courses, John Alexopoulos said. This year in particular, John Alexopoulos has seen Jake become a much improved player, with his best performance coming during the Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational.

"With the [difficulty] of the course and the consistency of where he placed the ball as well as the putting and the chipping, he definitely played [his] best," said John Alexpolous.

Over the summer, John Alexopoulos said Jake shot low rounds of 37 over nine holes and 85 for 18 holes.

"I was with him when he shot 37. He had eight pars and a bogey and the bogey was a three put on that long hole across the water and they had just finished the club championship so the pin placements were super hard," said John Alexopoulos. "He made it look so easy going around, hitting greens and two putting it was great to watch. I mean I was like 'Oh, wow. Pinch me.' So, I knew he was ready for this event."

Being able to compete in the Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational was a goal that John Alexopoulos said he and Jake had set during the summer. Not only did Jake train hard for the event, but John Alexopoulos said he competed in the Vermont Open, the Vermont Amateur qualifier at Equinox and the Special Olympic tournament in August to help prepare.

Now that the event is over, John Alexopoulos said he was pleased that he and Jake had the opportunity to attend.

"It was well worth it," said John Alexopoulos. "It was a great experience for me as well as Jake."


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