Golf

Six-year-old boy at ease ruling one-armed challenge at Honda Classic

Tommy Morrissey, 6, was born with only one whole arm. The One-Armed Challenge has become a prelude to the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic, being played Thursday through Sunday this week at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens.
Tommy Morrissey, 6, was born with only one whole arm. The One-Armed Challenge has become a prelude to the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic, being played Thursday through Sunday this week at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. Special to the Miami Herald

Sometimes, life can be seemingly cruel, but 6-year-old Tommy Morrissey will have none of that.

There’s no time for him to worry or dwell about being born without most of his right arm, because that would just take away from his golf time.

“I like golf a whole, whole, whole, whole lot,” Tommy emphasized by using lots and lots of the word “whole.”

There is good reason he should like golf a lot. After all, on Tuesday he was whipping up on some of the PGA Tour’s top players.

So, how does a 6-year-old with one arm humble the world’s best golfers? The two-word answer: with ease.

In his few years, Tommy has spent a lot more time than the pros swinging a golf club one-handed. Thus, the One-Armed Challenge became a prelude to the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic being played Thursday through Sunday this week at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens.

As the pros came down the 18th fairway Tuesday finishing practice rounds, Tommy would greet them with club in hand. What ensued was a closest-to-the pin competition from 50 yards away with kid and pros swinging with one arm.

The result was Tommy victoriously walking away laughing and giggling most of the time while the pros walked away slightly embarrassed but also smiling broadly since most of the pros know Tommy from meeting him at previous tournaments.

When Billy Horschel spotted Tommy on the 18th Tuesday, he said, “I know I’m in trouble. He kicked my butt in Vegas. The kid almost made a hole-in-one there.”

On Tuesday, Horschel was one of the few players that defeated Tommy and afterward said with a laugh, “We’ll be meeting again to decide this.”

Horschel then turned serious.

“None of us let him win,” he said. “It’s inspirational just to see him. He has a great spirit. He’s always happy and doesn’t let anything stop him.”

Literally.

Between beating most of the pros, Tommy was running here, there and everywhere on the course. Tommy also had a friend, Madison Moman, 9, along with him. The two of them, among other things, played Simon Says, munched on chips and looked for alligators near one of the course’s lakes. Thankfully, they did not find any gators to pet.

On his golf journey, Tommy has met, among others, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson.

One time, Watson picked Tommy up and brought him onto the fairway at St. Andrew’s.

“The players sometime will even heckle him,” said Tommy’s father, Joe Morrissey. “And he’ll heckle them right back.”

One of the more touching moments of Tuesday’s One-Armed Challenge was a mother bringing her 4-year-old son, who also was missing an arm, to the course. Tommy and the 4-year-old met and talked, almost bringing Tommy’s mother to ears.

“To see them and help make him believe at age 4 he can do anything — that is so wonderful to see,” Marcia Morrissey said.

Some of Tommy’s earliest recollections in life centered on golf.

At 14 months, recalled Joe, “We plopped him in front of the TV with golf on, and he was pretending to swing a club as he watched it.” They tried to change the channel to cartoons rather than golf. Tommy wanted nothing of that, quickly getting them to change it back to golf.

“We knew around that point that it never occurred to him that he had any limitations,” Joe said.

Matters were not always that optimistic.

“Before he was born,” Joe said, “and when we were told that our kid was going to have an abnormality, that was a dark day for me. I regret that I considered it a dark day, and that darkness doesn’t exist anymore. Now I’m the luckiest man on the planet.”

That includes playing golf with Tommy. “I’m an awful golfer,” Joe said, “and Tommy doesn’t mind telling everyone about that.”

Marcia, the mom, points out that Tommy was born in December. “A Christmas miracle,” she said.

Mom Marcia is thankful for the role golf has played in her son’s life.

“Golf makes him happy, and that’s the main thing,” she said.

Then she summed up, “He doesn’t think he’s disabled by only having one arm. In fact, he thinks we’re disadvantaged with two arms.”

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