A boy named Bayleigh Teepa-Tarau recently shook the golf world, especially in his home country of New Zealand. The 12-year-old, who is on the autism spectrum, won a national tournament despite only having every played just three rounds of golf prior to the tournament.
Sporting basketball sneakers and borrowed clubs, Bayleigh won the nine-hole competition at the Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools (AIMS) Games, a tournament created to promote diversity amongst New Zealand’s young athletes. The boy ended the competition an 87 in the Stableford scoring system. Even with his handicap of inexperience, he managed to beat those who had access to a professional coach or had been training for years.
As with many stories of success, it all began with an observant and dutiful educator. Whetu Wiremu, a teacher-aide at Tāneatua School, where Bayleigh attends, was by his side throughout the competition. He was the one who spotted Bayleigh always swinging a stick, ever since he could walk, and had the idea of introducing him to golf.
“He never used to even talk to anyone,” Wiremu told the New Zealand Herald. “I’ve done heaps of work with him for the last couple of years just to get him out of his shell and into sport and I just treated him like I treated all the other kids.” Bayleigh, who is Māori, used to spend most of his time in class under his desk, not speaking. Adding to the challenge of communication, the tiny town of Tāneatua doesn't have a golf course, and Wiremu had to ask around among his friends for equipment to borrow.
On top of winning the individual competition, Bayleigh also won the team title in collaboration with his schoolmates Pedro Robinson and Lincoln Reritito. “They come from a place where there’s poverty, gangs, drugs, violence, and for them to have this type of opportunity to see and meet people like this is just real heart-warming for me,” Wiremu admits.
Now, everything seems to be coming up for the young golfer. A team of sponsors recently visited his school to present Bayleigh with his own brand new set of golf clubs and golf balls with his name printed on them. He and his friends are also now part of the Whakatane Golf Club, and will join its future coaching program to support 20 more young golfers from Tāneatua School.
For now, Bayleigh seems to have found something that fills him with joy, and will likely inspire many more in his community to take up a sport where they may not see themselves represented often. “The thing I love about golf is hitting my driver,” Bayleigh said after winning. “I dreamed about coming here and finishing in first place. And I had a lot of fun.”
A boy named Bayleigh Teepa-Tarau recently shook the golf world in his home country of New Zealand.
The 12-year-old, who is on the autism spectrum, won a national tournament despite only having played just three rounds of golf in his whole life, prior to the competition.
h/t: [New Zealand Herald]