Six-year-old Tommy Morrissey bantered and outhit some of the pros Tuesday morning at the 18th fairway of PGA National’s Champion Course as they took on his one-armed challenge.
The Palm Beach Gardens boy who was born without most of his right arm dominated the closest-to-the-pin contest. The pros all had to use one arm — either one — just like Tommy. Thirty minutes in, Tommy had won four rounds and tied one. His nine-year-old friend Madison Moman, also a standout golfer, kept score.
“Head down,” was Tommy’s advice to the competition.
He has developed a rapport with the golfers. As Billy Horschel’s group approached, Horschel quipped, “Show us what we have to beat. We know we’re in trouble.”
Tommy called a mulligan on his first shot.
“I’ll let you take a mulligan. I wish that was my good shot,” Horschel replied.
Austin Cischke, 4, watched it all from the sidelines. His parents, Amanda and Chris Cischke, wanted to show their son that his own undeveloped arm doesn’t define him. Although it’s great for him to see someone with a similar condition, his parents didn’t want that to be the focus.
“An environment like this allows you to meet under different circumstance,” Amanda Cischke said.
Austin already plays golf and tennis and throws a baseball pretty hard, his parents said. At one point, he stood up from his chair and wandered off to get a closer view of the fairway. Austin and Tommy exchanged hugs before Austin left with a new nickname for his short arm — Nemo, just like Tommy’s. The nickname was inspired by the Disney character with a short fin.
Tommy’s mom, Marcia, said the families had just met that day. Limb differences are not that common, she said.
“To see this, that has to be impactful,” she said. “It is so good that these other kids and families get to see there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
It wasn’t always that way. Tommy’s dad, Joe Morrissey, said it was a dark day for him when he and his wife found out that their firstborn son was going to have an abnormality.
“I emotionally took it very hard. I regret that,” he said, standing on the course watching his son. “I stand here as the luckiest man on this planet.”
When Tommy was just a toddler, he would practice his golf swing in front of the TV. His parents never told him he had limitations, but he’s not being raised as a golf prodigy, his dad said.
Yesterday, they played golf, tennis and football.
“It just happens that he is a very good golfer,” Joe Morrissey said.
Tommy’s family and friends gathered autographs from the golfers as they reached the 18th hole, but Tommy was far from star-struck. He skipped over to his mom when he got his first signed ball, but he spent most of his time ribbing the competition.
“He has hobnobbed with all the pros for all these years. He thinks he’s one of them,” Marcia Morrissey said.
Horschel offered some parting advice to Tommy for the competition still to come.
“Don’t take it easy…no mercy,” Horschel told him.
Proceeds from the challenge sponsored by Florida Power & Light benefit Tommy’s Unlimbited foundation.
Proceeds from the challenge sponsored by Florida Power & Light benefit Tommy’s Unlimbited foundation: http://www.unlimbited.org/