Fort Assiniboine senior brings home bronze

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Bessie Stevens competes in the Canada 55 Plus games in St. John, New Brunswick in golf

Bessie Stevens might just have returned home from the Canada 55 Plus games in St. John, New Brunswick, with a medal around her neck, but she is already planning her next trip to Kamloops, in 2020.

“The first thing I told my husband when I got home is that this is definitely not my last time,” she said.

Stevens, a Fort Assiniboine native, won the bronze medal in 80-plus golf at the multi-sports games Aug. 21 to 24.

She qualified for the games last summer when she won a silver medal at the Alberta 55 Plus Games in Calgary.

Stevens has been involved in the Canada 55 Plus movement since 1998 first starting at the regional level before progressing to the provincial level and qualifying to represent Zone 5 in various sports including golf, bowling, and curling at multiple Alberta 55 Plus Games, starting with the Olds/Didsbury effort in 1999. In 2014, Stevens got her first taste at competing at the national level in golf when she qualified for the Canada 55 Plus Games which were hosted by Strathmore County.

Stevens left for St. John on Aug. 19 with two friends from Team Alberta arriving late in the evening.

The next morning the trio headed out to the Rockwood Park Golf course for a practice round.

“The course wasn’t very friendly to seniors,” Stevens said, noting that luckily for her athletes at the games were provided carts.

She added while the athletes were very well received by the residents of St. John she didn’t feel as welcome at the golf course, at least when she was practicing.

“The course is privately owned and they weren’t as friendly to non-members, but when we were walking in the mall, or on the street everyone gave you a friendly smile and said hello.”

The next day athletes took part in the opening ceremonies at a local arena and then returned to their hotel, which they shared with athletes from the Yukon.

When Steven’s wasn’t resting or on the course she would walk to nearby shopping districts.

“You had to pace yourself. St. John is basically all hills, there are not too many level places. Either you are walking up them or down them,” she said, adding one thing that surprised her is how many people she met while exploring the city that knew about Fort Assiniboine.

Stevens said the Team Alberta shirt attracted a lot of attention.

“People liked its styling, saying its unique. I even had a person, while I was in the mall , who wanted to buy it, literally off my back,” she said.

On Aug. 23 and 24, Stevens competition started in earnest and she shot a 110 and a 108 respectively.

“I am pretty happy with that, after all, it was good enough to get a bronze medal,” she said, adding she couldn’t have done it without the support of the community.

In the months leading up to the games, Stevens embarked on a fundraising campaign in to raise the estimated $6,000 needed not only for  travel to the games, but her training expenses so she would be at her peak at the games. Stevens’ granddaughter Lyndsey Carmichael also started a GoFundMe page. At last report, the page had raised more than $2,500 while Woodlands County contributed $1,000 to the cause.

“I really can’t thank everyone enough. It was a wonderful experience and it is one I plan to do again. The oldest male competitor at the games was a 91-year-old hockey player and the oldest female was 94 so I think I still have some time yet,” she said.

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