Whether it’s for Majors like the upcoming Open Championship or the PGA Championship, crowds don’t often watch golfers practice. But a throng gathers around a lonely astroturf driving range in the arid hills above Mesquite, Nevada to watch the determined athletes of the ParaLong Drive World Championships swing away at the distant Spring Mountains.
The competing players each work through different disabilities — many with technically advanced prosthetics to counter missing limbs and other serious injuries. But the most extraordinary golfer gripping and ripping that day was also the smallest and undoubtedly the happiest.
Standing no taller than a putter, Tommy Morrissey swings with enthusiasm, dancing, talking and singing to himself between hits. His shots make it less than 50 years down range, but that’s not bad for a three year old. In fact, it’s extraordinary for a toddler with only a left arm.
“Tommy started swinging the club around 18 months old while we were watching golf on television,” Tommy’s father Joseph explained. “We are brining Tommy up to see life without limitations. He’s being raised just like every other child, but he’s been given both a gift and a challenge.”
The boy calls his smaller right arm “Nemo” in honor of the similarly challenged Disney character, but that’s the only way Tommy acknowledges any disability. He’s largely self-taught and dedicated enough to sleep besides his clubs by night.
While Tommy’s ability led him to meetings with Tiger Woods and Ellen Degeneres, he’s more interested in showing off when the media is watching. His pre-swing ritual usually includes a beaming, “Daddy, watch this one!” before he throws his body into another effort.
“The beauty of being a child is that he doesn’t know he’s different,” Joseph added. “He just knows he’s having a lot of fun with Dad on the golf course.”