Some said Matt Lees could not pursue a career in golf, and they were wrong. At 21, and despite a lot of other stuff people said to his face or behind his back, the dream is alive.
Grillroom: Why golf?
Lees: I was born without a left hand, so in school I was treated differently. Kids can be mean. Golf was something I could do alone, and I became comfortable being by myself, just going to the range, hitting balls.
Now, I'm going to the Professional Golfers Career College in California. In the summer I play whenever I can and caddie at a club near Philadelphia, which is home.
Your golf school is in lieu of a conventional college?
It is now. We take courses in the morning about all aspects of golf. Then in the afternoon we get to tee it up. Not a bad deal. But it was either think about a boring job, or doing something that's my passion.
Your ultimate objective?
I would like to be a club pro, giving lessons. That is if I can't do what would really be the ultimate, to play in a PGA Tour event. I'm a 7-handicap now. Long way to go.
But you've already come a long way.
Exactly. Few people took me seriously, although my family has been very supportive. Just recently, I started using a prosthesis. The physics of gripping the club is the same. When I catch it flush, I can drive the ball 270 yards.
People still treat you differently?
It's so natural to me now that I might caddie an entire round without the person I'm carrying for noticing that I'm wearing a prosthesis. If people stare at me, I don't mind anymore. It used to bother me.
Golf frustrates many, but not you.
Golf was the one thing that kept me going through a lot of rough stuff. I went through periods when I was angry, depressed, a majority of those moods because of my hand. But golf has helped me feel more confident in social situations.
Are you over your anger?
My favorite was Payne Stewart. I was crushed when he died. I'm lucky to be living my dream. I'll never forget how some people treated me, but now I'm proud to have one hand, doing what I'm doing.