for 30 years, Norman Kretz Helps build golf courses for people with special needs. In May, the latest project he led came to fruition.
The Kritz Links Arena for the Blind and Visually Impaired opened May 25 on the grounds of the New York Institute of Special Education after what seemed like an eternity of development. The original session proposal meeting took place in August 2018, and the COVID-19 pandemic further slowed the process.
“It’s been about a year since we haven’t really been able to communicate with each other and with the kids,” says Kretz. “(The epidemic) was something that prevented everything. Fortunately, we got through it and the end result is good.”
The Course is a fast-paced chip-and-chip course designed to accommodate the target players. The longest aperture is only 45 yards long, the apertures have been expanded to 8 inches, and a nearly double regulation width.
In addition to the expanded cup width, the course’s first and fourth slots have wheelchair access to accommodate those with additional disabilities in the school. “In a school for the blind, you not only have kids who have trouble seeing, but many kids who have physical problems,” says Kretz. “Some kids are in wheelchairs and some kids are on crutches. So, we built two slots where the wheelchairs could roll directly onto the greens.”
During the 30 years that Kretz spent helping to design and build courses for the underprivileged, he always felt it was for a good cause. When he first got involved in the industry, he originally wanted to use golf as an outlet to prevent drug abuse, but he soon joined the Mid-Atlantic Golf Association for the Blind.
Although he helped design and build the course, Kritz has not visited the course since it opened. He is 92 years old and travels from his home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to the Bronx. The journey takes more than three hours, and Kretz can only go when someone – usually his son – is driving him. Kritz follows the course closely despite not being able to make the journey as often as he pleases. “I still put my finger in it, I don’t put my hand in it,” he says.
The school, by proxy of course, has not been used extensively yet. New York Institute for Special Needs is out for summer. He believes that the experience of working for children at MABGA is his own reward. Kretz is confident that the course will bring much joy to the students. “I think you’d call it 30 amazing years of working with kids,” says Kretz. “It is so wonderful and satisfying. It is a pleasure to see the smiles on their faces. This is your reward, you can take the smiles home with you.”
Jack Glickler is a senior student at Ohio State University who participates in a summer internship program in the golf course industry.