Golf Digest Videos

Golf Saved My Life

A boy with autism and his father find happiness through golf.

Released on 5/18/2017

Transcript

00:00
(birds chirping)
00:05
[Michael Voiceover] A lot of sound sort of freaks me out,
00:06
and it makes me just wanna cover my ears
00:08
and like sort of hide away,
00:11
so it helps me calm down
00:12
when there's basically no sounds anywhere.
00:15
I guess you could use the metaphor of just
00:18
me wanting to spread open,
00:21
and actually share moments with my dad.
00:24
(gentle wistful music)
00:35
When Michael was born was the happiest day of my life
00:36
at the time.
00:37
♫ This thing called love
00:40
♫ I must get round to it
00:43
♫ I ain't ready
00:45
♫ Crazy little thing called love
00:47
And I just had visions of Sunday afternoons,
00:50
and him watching the Rangers or just watching TV with me,
00:55
and us sitting on the couch.
00:57
[Woman Voiceover] Michael's diagnosis originally was
01:01
PDD-NOS which is Pervasive Development Disorder
01:05
Not Otherwise Specified.
01:07
It wasn't 'til Michael was two and a half, three years old
01:12
that he was rediagnosed out again as Asperger's.
01:17
(gentle wistful music)
01:21
[Sal] When I came home from work, he was on the floor.
01:24
Thinking he was playing, I just saw him put his,
01:29
just put his hands down and he literally was just
01:31
slamming his forehead into the hardwood floor.
01:34
I cried so much that night.
01:37
My wife would buy Autism books on the sneak,
01:39
because she knew I was upset about it,
01:40
and I think I was upset because I was in denial.
01:42
But, there's nothing I can do.
01:43
I couldn't take it away,
01:44
and that's when I knew that my life changed.
01:50
[Teacher Voiceover] Point to the number eight.
01:54
[Sal] Beautiful. Very good. (applause)
01:57
[Sal] Michael always had an affinity
01:59
with math and numbers.
02:00
[Teacher] Point to the number seven.
02:02
[Sal] He could pick out his numbers one to a hundred.
02:05
He could call out a number, put 'em on a card.
02:08
He was just brilliant with math.
02:10
[Teacher] Here we go, wait a minute.
02:11
Thank you. Very good.
02:14
And yet, he couldn't say Daddy,
02:16
so it was just incredible.
02:19
[Michael] Asperger's is, to me means
02:20
something that I have.
02:23
It's sort of a syndrome that affects my brain.
02:26
It makes me better in one subject,
02:28
worse in one subject, mostly in school,
02:30
but, also, it makes it harder for me to make friends.
02:34
It makes it easier for me to get stuck in what I'm doing.
02:37
It's very hard to overcome,
02:38
but eventually, it sort of just comes.
02:42
[Nicole] Michael loves to play video games,
02:44
so, on the Wii they had this game called Wii Sports,
02:47
and it was tennis, golf, and bowling.
02:51
Michael would torture me to play the golf.
02:54
[Sal] I think what he liked about it
02:55
was all the numbers.
02:57
The loft of the club and how that would change
02:58
the number of the club would change the distance.
03:00
[Nicole] He would just sit there
03:03
and try to figure it out.
03:05
So, I said to him Michael, do you want to,
03:08
do you think you want to play golf?
03:09
And, he said, yeah, maybe we'll try something.
03:10
I bought him a pair of plastic golf clubs.
03:13
On the day that I bought them, he was hitting the ball
03:15
so hard he broke the ball, he broke the clubs.
03:18
Just threw them in the garbage and I just, on a whim,
03:20
I drove him to the driving range.
03:22
I said, Would you like me to give you some lessons?
03:25
He said yes.
03:26
Then I connected with the manager there,
03:29
told him about Michael.
03:30
We found a coach that was perfect for him.
03:32
That's how it all started.
03:33
It all started with math.
03:35
[Nicole] It was Sal who really took the lead on,
03:38
I'm gonna introduce this to my son,
03:41
even though I myself don't know how to play golf.
03:45
I'm gonna learn because this is gonna be a bonding
03:48
for me and my son.
03:51
It was important for me
03:52
that Sal know that bond with Michael,
03:55
because I already had that bond with Michael
03:59
through all of the therapy and everything else.
04:01
I was the one that was always home with him,
04:03
but once Sal was able to bond with him on that level,
04:13
This was something that he chose,
04:16
that he felt like he could take the lead on,
04:19
and we could enter into his world.
04:22
It was just amazing.
04:23
It's still amazing.
04:25
[Michael] I like playing with my dad
04:26
because he helps me get through
04:28
moments that I'm feeling stuck
04:30
or I'm feeling down on myself.
04:32
I have a lot of fond memories of playing with him.
04:35
[Sal] He's in a mainstream school.
04:37
He's been in a mainstream class.
04:38
He's going to high school.
04:40
He's gonna be in geometry honors in ninth grade.
04:43
Goes to computer camp every summer.
04:46
So, we're just so proud of him.
04:47
If you ask him, Michael where do you wanna go to college?
04:50
[Michael] He's going to say MIT. MIT.
04:52
[Michael] I actually do wanna be a computer scientist.
04:54
My plan is I'm gonna take a computer science class
04:57
this year, next year, and I'm just gonna learn
04:59
more and more and more about it.
05:01
Then, I'll be able to get into MIT.
05:03
I am probably gonna join the high school golf team, though.
05:06
With practice, I think I can make it.
05:08
Strive big, you know?
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