Many people classify premier athletes as role models whether it’s Mike Trout, Tiger Woods, or Lebron James. In public these guys are seen like heroes that are worshipped, and people fight to get pictures or autographs.
It’s not very often that a junior varsity high school golfer carries the title of a role model with them, but for the Golden Valley Grizzlies it’s just that person that is their role model. With the golf season in full swing the Golden Valley Grizzlies are looking to bounce back this year after missing playoffs by three strokes. The teams’ goal this year is to make playoffs; however, it’s not defending Foothill league MVP Jon Kang that pushes this team. It’s not other key returners or their collective will to win. This team’s motivation comes from a first year golfer named Robert Solomon.
Solomon is a sophomore at Golden Valley and was born with a condition called ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD is known to cause social impairment, including difficulties with social communication. Head coach Tony Moskal said Solomon is anything but socially impaired.
“Robert can be seen at practice hanging out with the other guys on the team participating in putting contests, chipping contests and having a good time with everyone,” Moskal said.
The guys on the team have accepted him as one of their own and love having him around.
“Robert is just one of us,” sophomore Justin Reyes said.
Robert has inspired the Grizzlies to try and put their best foot forward every time they step out on the course, but it was another pretty famous golfer that motivated Robert to get involved in the sport. Robert started playing golf around the age of 10. He fell in love with the sport after watching Tiger Woods in person which inspired him to play golf and he’s never looked back.
“Tiger Woods inspired me to play golf and I fell in love with it. I knew I didn’t want to play any other sport,” said Robert.
For some it’s the game they love but that’s not the case for Robert even though he loves the game it’s the other things.
“I love playing golf and being around good people and good friends,” Solomon said.
Solomon has not only helped the team with his ability as a golfer, but also he’s flat out inspired the team in other ways.
“Not only does Robert bring a fantastic work ethic to the program he also brings perspective,” Moskal said. “By being in our program he brings life lessons to other kids. He’s one of the hardest workers out there. He’s a great listener as well as a great role model for the other players not only on our team but the other teams as well.”
In some situations having someone like Solomon around allows the other guys on the team to take a self-inventory within their own lives. Solomon is a care free person who gets along with everyone and for the team there is no better example.
“These guys accepted me as a friend and a good teammate,” Solomon said.
Along with accepting Solomon as a teammate, the team also accepted him as a friend and will constantly help him with his game to try and make him better. Whether it’s on the practice range or on the golf course–where Robert had never played a full round of golf until he joined the team.
“I’m always looking to get better and my teammates are there to help me whenever I need it.”
Before the season Solomon had never played a full round of golf, but he has completed several 9 hole matches so far this season. The goal is to have him get in a full round of 18 holes before the season concludes.
Although Solomon isn’t the first Golden Valley golfer to have been in SC8, he’s just the next person in a program that has helped kids like himself get into sports and excel in and out of school.
“It’s always a privilege to have kids like Robert on our team, not only can the kids help Robert but Robert can help the kids,” Moskal said.
“He’s great to have around us he always seems to have this life in him this excitement that can’t be matched” varsity player Justin Reyes said.
Solomon is the latest in a long line of special education students to participate in the boys’ golf program at Golden Valley.
“It doesn’t matter to me where these kids come from or what their handicapping condition may be, I’ll take them on my team,” Moskal said. “At the end of the day I think it’s us that learn more from them than the other way around. I love having Robert on the team. He’s a great kid with a fantastic attitude.”
As the years pass us by and more and more golfers come through the Golden Valley program it’s the kids like Robert and those who came before him that leave a lasting impact on everyone they come in contact with both on and off the golf course.