April is dubbed Autism Awareness Month across the globe. It’s a time where we support those affected and their families. There is one story that pops up that that we absolutely love. It’s about Simon Seungmin, a 20-year-old South Korean, who grew up in the US, has been medically assessed as having the communication skills of a child half his age — and the socialisation abilities of a 10-month-old baby.
But six years after taking up the clubs, and following five failed attempts, he secured professional status at a Korea PGA trial in May — one of the few autistic people to do so anywhere in the world.
His next goal is a tour card at the Korea PGA qualifying school. “I love golf,” said Lee, who has difficulty speaking and whose mother helps him communicate. At age eight, he was placed in a special education system in the US, where he started playing ice hockey as a sports therapy. Six years later, he turned to golf, which he had been practicing during summer vacations with family and friends.
Autistic golfers are not completely unprecedented. Moe Norman, who won 55 Canadian Tour and other Canadian events from the 1950s to the 1970s, is believed to have suffered from the disorder. A metronomically reliable hitter of the ball, he has been described as “a supernaturally gifted yet cruelly misunderstood athlete”.
Lee might be cognitively impaired, but has a remarkable memory and his motor skills appear to be highly developed, according to his golf coach Kim Jong-Pil. “I think he was born as a golfer,” he said. When you see him on the green, it’s a new person. His skills-set is remarkable. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it.
Golf is hugely popular in South Korea, whose women players dominate the global game, taking five of the top seven places on the current LPGA money list. Lee made his debut on the country’s professional golf tour at the KPGA Caido Golden V1 Open in June 2017 and since then has been a force to reckon with.