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On course for peace of mind: Auburn golfer Tyler May finds therapy on the greens | Boys Golf
Sometimes the world can be overwhelming for Tyler May.
The 16-year-old Auburn High School junior and standout golfer was born with autism, a neurological disorder that affects connections in the brain, often manifesting in awkward social behavior.
“It’s really a social disorder,” said Tyler’s father, Tom. “He prefers to communicate with adults rather than kids because they don’t judge so much. He really has no friends. At school he eats lunch with the special education kids. He doesn’t hang out with the mainstream kids. He likes the special education kids because he says they don’t judge.”
Tyler’s autism also makes him hypersensitive to noise, especially in crowd situations.
“He can’t go to assemblies or games at school,” Tom said. “He can’t pick out the different noises, so it overwhelms him.”
Add behavioral problems associated with autism, and it’s easy to see why a few moments of peace are a welcome thing in Tyler’s life.
For Tyler, those moments often come on the links.
“It’s the peace and quiet of the course that I like. You don’t get any distractions,” said Tyler, who has emerged as one of the Trojans’ top varsity players. “Because of my disability, that’s what I like. It helps me concentrate a little bit more. This is one of the only sports that has peace and quiet.”
Growing up, Tyler participated and did well in other sports, such as Little League baseball and soccer. It was all part of the family’s efforts to make Tyler’s life as normal as possible, to treat his autism without giving in to it.
Eventually the hectic pace of the games, and the noise made it difficult for Tyler to enjoy the sports.
That’s when Tyler turned to golf.
“He’s been hitting balls since he was 7, but I couldn’t take him on the golf course because of his disability and anger management issues,” Tom said. “It just wasn’t appropriate for me to take him out there.”
In May 2010, however, Tom figured Tyler was ready and signed him up as a member of the Jade Green’s Men’s Club, just down the road from their home.
Tyler took to the sport like a duck to water.
“The first tourney he ever played in he took low net score,” Tom said. “Then he took third in the second tournament,”
The early success inspired Tyler to double his efforts.
“Tyler lives out there. It seems like he’s a family member out there,” Tom said.
Tyler’s progress was so rapid that just a few months after he started playing golf he tried out and made the high school team.
“Trojan golf coach Jeremy Sagle said he knew about Tyler’s disability, but was more impressed with his enthusiasm.
“I was glad to have someone so excited to turn out for the team,” Sagle said. “He was really nervous the first day of practice. He struggled and was getting frustrated, but he calmed down.”
Tyler eventually earned acceptance from his teammates.
“It was pretty tough at first. The coach told my teammates about my disability, so they understood what was going on,” Tyler said. “They are probably the best teammates to play with. They are really very kind people. “
Tyler capped his sophomore season with a trip to the West Central District 4A tournament where he had a rough day, finishing second to last in the field.
This summer, Tyler found his stroke in Washington State Special Olympics play. At the state tournament qualifier, Tyler shot a record-setting 40 on Tacoma’s Meadow Park nine-hole course, beating the field by 18 strokes. He followed it up with a gold medal performance at the Walter E. Hall course in Everett, shooting a 42.
“It was pretty great,” Tyler said. “All that hard work finally paid off.”
At Jade Greens, Tyler continues to be one of the course’s top players. He took home first in net score at the men’s club championships last weekend with 18-hole rounds of 84 and 80.
In school play this fall, Tyler is flirting with the No. 2 spot on the Trojans’ squad.
“He works at it harder than anybody,” Sagle said. “He’s just really determined and driven.
Adds Tom: “He’s worked real hard to get where he is. He deserves his spot on the team. A lot of it is the dedication and support (of others).”
Tyler appreciates the support of Jade Greens and its pro, Doug Campbell.
“Whenever I have trouble, I either have my dad or Doug Campbell help me out,” Tyler said. “Doug is pretty much one of the greatest pros in this area. The good thing about him is that he’s calm, cool and collected.”
And although the on-course results matter, the most important thing for Tom is the peace of mind that Tyler finds on the links.
“Every time he comes out to the golf course, it’s therapy for him,” Tom said. “His therapy never stops.”