UMW Employee Braxton Wins Gold at Special Olympic Games
You might know Grace Braxton as the woman who wraps up your sandwich at the Eagle’s Nest, but what you probably don’t know is that she is the No. 1 female Special Olympics golfer in the world.
Since 1991, Braxton has won 24 golf awards at the state, national and international level in addition to winning awards in swimming and acting as an advocate for the Special Olympics.
This summer, Braxton attended the 2011 Special Olympic Games in Athens, Greece and brought home her second gold medal in golf.
In an article about Braxton on the Virginia State Golf Associations website, she was noted as having won her first World Games title in 2007 in Shanghai, China by 36 strokes.
The Virginia Special Olympics website lists Braxton as being among nine athletes from Virginia that were sent to the 2011 Special Olympic Games, which were held from June 25 to July 4
Braxton is a Fredericksburg local who started golfing when she was 18 years old, but has always been active in the world of athletics. She attended James Monroe High School and competed in the 50-yard dash, running long jump and softball toss before finding what has become a lifelong passion for golf.
Her father, retired circuit court judge Harrison Braxton, is her coach and a United States Golf Association rules official. He is also the person who first introduced her to the sport.
“I was 18 years old, right out of high school when my father took me to my first golf match,” said Braxton, “ it was okay when I first started but I like it a lot more now.”
The first time Braxton competed in a World Special Olympic event it was not as a golfer, but as a swimmer in 1991, when she took home the gold.
In an interview conducted by the Virginia Special Olympics website in April 2011, President of Special Olympics Virginia Rick Jeffery told the story of how Braxton qualified for both golf and swimming at the USA National Games in 2006.
Jeffery said that since she was only being allowed to compete in one event, she opted to compete in swimming so that Graham Wright, a friend of Braxtons who was the first alternate, could compete in golf.
He had never before competed in a large scale golfing event and with Braxton’s decision to step down, he got his chance to compete at the National Games for the first time.
“As good of a golfer as Grace Ann is, that is really the measure of a lady,” said Jeffery. “I think Grace Ann is an even better person than she is a golfer.
While she has been competing at the National Level for 20 years, she still trains locally at the Fredericksburg Country Club.
“I go out every weekend, and when I’m not working [at The Nest],” said Braxton, “I go out everyday during the summer.”
In addition to working at the Nest and training at the country club, she also finds time to volunteer as an advocate for the Special Olympics on a national and international scale.
“I go around and speak to schools and to communities helping recruit athletes and volunteers.” Braxton said.
When asked about the acclaim that Braxton’s accomplishments bring to the university, Director of News and Public Information Marty Morrison said, “It’s always exciting to have a faculty member recognized for their achievement.”
She commended Braxton on her exceptional “can-do-spirit.”
Despite her successes in the world of competitive sports, Braxton dosen’t feel as though her life has been drastically changed by her experiences, saying, “I’m still the same person. But now a lot of students recognize me for what I do.”
Last week on Sept. 13th, Braxton received a plaque from the mayor of Fredericksburg, highlighting her accomplishments and honoring her advocacy work on behalf of Special Olympics Virginia.
Next Wednesday, Braxton will attend a Special Olympics National Invitational for golf in Port Saint Lucie, Fla.
Yawen Maier contributed to this article.
Edited Sept. 15 at 1:16p.m. to correct misspelled name.