124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

Meet the 3-year-old golf prodigy born without a right hand

August 29, 2014

When Tommy Morrissey was 13 months old, he began watching golf telecasts with his father Joe and "he'd watch it as though he understood what was happening," his mother Marcia said.

At 18 months, he began mimicking what he was seeing on those golf telecasts, meanwhile, getting angry when someone changed the channel.

So his parents gave him a plastic club and ball and he began swinging away and hitting the ball with uncommon efficiency for a toddler, more so for one born without a right hand.

"My husband plays golf and I play golf," Marcia said. "Thomas became obsessed with it. He started watching YouTube instruction all on his own, mostly Bubba Watson, really. So we began nurturing his obsession. It's unreal."

Tommy is now three, has real equipment and plays as often as time and his parents allow, which is frequently, given that they're members at Frenchman's Reserve Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, near their home in Jupiter, and Linwood Country Club in Linwood, N.J., where they spend summers.

They took Tommy to Linwood's professional Jeff LeFevre this summer. "He immediately took a very nice, natural square setup," LeFevre said. "He took the club back to parallel and paused at the top. When he hesitates at the top he looks at the target, then back to the ball.

"He never whiffed one. And after watching him hit a couple hundred balls now it's amazing to me that he never ever whiffs."

Doctors at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia predicted that he'd have exceptional hand-eye coordination, Marcia said. "His body and his brain think he's right-handed, but without a right hand his brain has to compensate in ways yours and mine would not."

Marcia, meanwhile, is reading "Imperfect: An Improbable Life," Jim Abbott's autobiography. Abbott, who was born without a right hand and played 10 years in the major leagues, often spoke about his indifference to not having a right hand.

The same holds true with Tommy, Marcia said. "Thomas has no idea he's any different than anybody else," she said. "He just never even questions it."

The first time LeFevre saw him hit balls, tears came to his eyes, he said, a reaction others have had, too. "You're heartfelt for what he's going through," he said, "then you realize he doesn't see it as a handicap, that he was just born with one arm and that's the way it is."

As for his passion for the game, he once temporarily lost his putter. "Boy, was he upset. He had such a fit," LeFevre said. "His passion is just incredible."