- Golfer Benefits
WINTER GARDEN, Florida – After four tightly contested days of play, Tyler Lagasse secured gold on the final hole at the Special Olympics National Games on Thursday.
The win was the Tyngsborough native’s first top finish at the event after he took home silver in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
“It feels like I’m on top of the world,” he said. “I had three attempts that failed and finally the fourth one was successful.”
Lagasse navigated the challenging Crooked Cat course at the Orange County National Golf Center to secure the victory, narrowly beating his Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism compatriot Matthew Glumac on hole 18 to nab the title. He said that a “textbook drive” and chip shot close to the hole allowed him to secure the win.
Day 4 was particularly challenging, with the added pressure of Lagasse being tied with Glumac for much of the round after being neck-and-neck throughout the competition.
“I just had to remember to take a few deep breaths,” Lagasse said. “Take as much deep breaths as possible just to feel more relaxed, more calm and more focused, not to get too caught up in the moment, just really concentrated on the task at hand one shot at a time.”
Competitors also dealt with a two-hour rain delay in the middle of the 15th, but Lagasse said that research into Orlando’s climate patterns ahead of the tournament prepared him for the possibility of weather troubles and allowed him to navigate the delay without issue.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, Lagasse is considering participating in a few tournaments with the Amateur Golf Tour of New England and the Nabnasset Lake Country Club Championship. He will also participate in the Special Olympics golf season, which begins in September.
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Lagasse’s golf journey began back in 2003 when he first picked up a club. He was inspired to try out the sport after he watched Tiger Woods win the Masters in 1997, according to a 2018 op-ed he penned for ESPN.
In addition to his trips to the Special Olympics National Games, Lagasse has been selected to play in the Special Olympics Pro-Am Tournament outside the nation’s capital multiple times.
His accomplishments also include defeating pro player Gary Woodland at the 2012 AT&T National Pro-Am when he and three other Special Olympics golfers were invited to play. He shot a personal-best 70 in 2017 and has made an eagle on a par-4 two times.
Lagasse continued to golf competitively even while pursuing his post-secondary education — including coursework at Middlesex Community College and a bachelor’s program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, from which he graduated in 2019 — and working part-time.
Away from the green, Lagasse devotes time to educating the public about the Special Olympics and the importance of inclusion for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Lagasse co-authored “What Do You Say?: Autism with Character” with his mother Deborah in 2015 to tell his story and encourage readers to see all people’s strengths, talents and skills.
His experience also includes working as a Special Olympics Global Messenger and interning with Special Olympics Massachusetts.
Lagasse was a speaker for TEDx Beacon Street at the JFK Library in 2017, during which he discussed the importance of the Kennedys’ commitment to support individuals with disabilities. Lagasse also called attention to the following during his speech: “The next time you meet someone like me, just remember that we have more in common than you might imagine. It’s just that we’re a little more sensitive to certain things. After all, we might just become the best of friends.”
Lagasse’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed – he was awarded an Honorary ESPY in 2017 for excellence on and off the course and was inducted into the Special Olympics Massachusetts Hall of Fame.
“It’s important because people like me matter,” Lagasse said. “People with autism, people on the spectrum matter. They’re part of this world. They’re part of society, and my golfing is living proof of it. I just want to promote autism through golf, use golf as a platform for autism awareness and create positive change and innovation.”
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