Summertime for 3-year-old golf prodigy Tommy Morrissey means days spent hitting 100-yard drives over lakes at an Atlantic County country club. He steps up to the tee, lines up his driver, hesitates for just a moment, and cracks the golf ball over the water…all with one arm.
Tommy was born missing his right hand and part of his right arm below the elbow.
As he grew up in his hometown of Juniper, Fla., Tommy would watch golf on television with his father Joe and mother Marcia Lee. When he was about 18 months old, Tommy’s parents noticed that he was very interested in the sport, standing in front of the television and mimicking the golfer’s swings.
They gave him a set of plastic golf clubs, brought him out on the range, and saw he was a natural from his first perfect contact.
“His true ability is to look and learn,” Joe said. “I have given him very little instruction.”
When he was a little over 2-years-old, Tommy began using an iPad to look up golf tutorial videos on his own.
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“I walked in, I asked what he’s doing, and he said, ‘Daddy, I’m taking a golf lesson’,” Joe said.
At night, teddy bears would not accompany Tommy to bed. Instead, he was tucked in with an array of at least 7 clubs.
“One time he refused to go to bed, and [I] finally got him to go to sleep and he insisted on this club or that club,” Joe said. “I put him down, and my wife and I heard him yelling, ‘Mommy, Daddy, you forgot my putter!’”
Tommy has since switched to real clubs, having torn apart multiple sets of his old plastic ones. The weight of the clubs is a challenge for him, but Jeff LeFevre, Golf Director for the Linwood Country Club where Tommy and his father play during their summers at the Jersey Shore, says that difficulty does not hold the prodigy back.
“It’s such a difficult game with two hands, two arms,” LeFevre said. “And here we are, a 3-year-old with one arm with absolutely great rhythym, great set-up…truly, truly a golf prodigy.”
Tommy doesn't see himself as different than other children his age. He simply calls his shorter arm “Nemo” after the fish with one small fin in Finding Nemo.
In addition to his love of golf, Tommy plays many other sports, punting a football or hitting a baseball out of the park.
Joe and his wife say that while having one arm has been a challenge for Tommy, in the end it is also a gift.
“He has been able to bring grown men to tears on the driving range. . .In his short life, he has been able to inspire many, make people second guess their own capabilities,” Joe said. “…He is doing it with probably one of the most powerful tools, and that is the innocence of a child.”
In the end, Tommy is just a kid wanting to have fun playing the sport that he loves.
“He does like to hit the ball in the water, but that’s ‘cause he’s 3,” Joe said. “He doesn’t understand that’s bad yet.”