When you see something amazing at times you have to take a second look to confirm what you’re watching. In my case I often need to clean my glasses. Today as I participated in a PGA Jr Clinic for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits I came across young boy who is very special.
Unfortunately the clinic portion of the morning was interrupted by lurking thunderstorms but an excellent clinic by Dennis Walters made it in under the wire. Walters is paralyzed from the waist down but his love of the game made him adapt a way he could swing a club. Sitting on a swivel seat attached to a golf cart Walters sets up and launches an incredible array of shots that leave his audiences wondering why they can’t do the same standing on two good legs. Ah, such is the nature of the game. The golf club and golf ball don’t know who is swinging and they certainly don’t count how many limbs are involved.
This truly applies to Tommy Morrissey, a four year-old boy with plenty of energy to swing a club. After the Walters show the kids and professionals headed back to the PGA pavilion for lunch and a drier environment. Eventually the room emptied out but a few of the youngsters stayed behind. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a diminutive boy swinging a club. From my angle it looked like any other young golfer until I faced him head on. He was only swinging with one arm. His right forearm was missing.
The really amazing part of this sight involved the contact the boy made with the carpeting. It wasn’t a thud or a whiff, he clipped the club right across the floor every time. It was like watching a four year-old Moe Norman, the incredibly accurate Canadian professional. Tommy never missed a beat.
I was fortunate to meet Tommy’s parents, Marsha and Joe, a wonderful couple that encourage their son in every conceivable way. His mom told me they used to prop Tommy up against a coffee table in front of the TV and let him watch golf telecasts. With his one arm he would mimic swinging motions and got hooked on the game. His parents marvel at how perceptive their son is and how well he imitates others swinging the club. He likes Rory and Bubba having met them both, has spent time with Tiger and at four years-old has been on a whirlwind tour the last year that has taken him to an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Indonesia, Scotland and this week to Whistling Straits. The family hopes to spread a message to others through Tommy’s amazing talents — Living Without Limitations.
I plan to head back to Whistling Straits to watch more of the events during the tournament but I’m sure by the end of the week an image of Tommy will be fresh in my mind. He has a unique talent and his ability gives him plenty of confidence to fit in with his peers. From a golf standpoint he dominates older kids with two arms. Over the years it will be fun to follow the exploits of this young man. He’s definitely got it going on.
I too am a parent of a son with special needs. While he does have all of his limbs, he unfortunately does not possess the motor skills to hit a golf ball. However he does enjoy going out to the course and being a caddy for my wife and me. He cleans balls, removes the flag, retrieves clubs and helps drive the cart — in wide open spaces. As a PGA Life Member golf has always been a part of our family and Ryan has always liked it. It’s an avenue for him to improve on his socialization skills, something that typically hinders autistic individuals.
Today offered another instance of the incredible benefits of the game and also the wonderful folks you meet who are involved with it. Had I made the mistake and exited the pavilion fifteen minutes earlier I would not have come across this fabulous story. It made my summer.
This is only one example but if you open your eyes you’ll find plenty of special people facing uncommon challenges who share the bond of golf. I’ve been around it my entire life and while it has taken me to wonderful places and taught me important lessons the one thing that is its greatest attribute lies in the people you meet and the importance of developing friendships. Consider Tommy and his parents new friends of PurePlayGolf. I’m always looking to add more.