(This is the first of three stories featuring Cape Breton athletes competing at the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games to be held later this month in Antigonish)
SYDNEY, N.S. — If you watch Derek Keeping hit a ball at Lingan Golf and Country Club’s driving range, it won’t take long to see one of the stronger points of his game.
A crack of the driver and he sails the ball far. Real far. About 275 yards and straight as an arrow.
“It gets me closer to the green,” beamed the 21-year-old from Whitney Pier.
Keeping started out as a swimmer in 2012. He golfed when he was a youngster but joined the Special Olympics golf program when it began four years ago.
He’s worked toward the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games to be held in Antigonish. The golf competition runs Aug. 1-3.
“I’m hoping to do the best I can and hopefully, come home with some hardware,” he said.
Don Vaters of Glace Bay will coach Keeping and the Nova Scotia golf team at the event. He was approached by the late Ruth MacInnes four years ago to start a golf program for Special Olympics Cape Breton. What started with three golfers has grown to about 16.
Vaters said Keeping is a quick learner.
“He has the respect for his coaches, he listens to everything, he follows instruction very well and he has natural-born talent,” he said. “We just had to refine it and bring it out.”
On the course in Antigonish, Francis Sampson of Sydney River will act as Keeping’s caddy. He’s also a member of the mission staff.
“(Derek’s) got a good cross-section of all the skills that are necessary and he’s doing very well,” Sampson said. “Somedays he’ll be off like most of us who are golfers and other days, he does really well.
“Hopefully, he’ll be that kind of golfer at nationals.”
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