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21-Year-Old with Autism Finds His Dream Job on the Golf Course!

In this post below, Elizabeth Grotewohl, mom of 21-year-old Mark, shares his success story after working hard and finding his dream job.

My amazing son Mark will turn 22 in June. He is my third boy and when he was first diagnosed, the experts told me he would amount to nothing and I should just be content with what I got. Sorry, not my son! I have spent the last twenty years fighting for him to be the best he can be. We have screaming sessions every day. He has upset the dynamic of our family so that everyone has been changed, but not for the worse. For the better.

We have all learned compassion. His older brothers have learned patience and acceptance without giving up the normal brotherly badgering and taunting. His younger sister has learned to underscore her accomplishments so that he never feels less than anyone else. He has turned into an amazing person. He has two jobs and attends junior college, working towards a Horticulture degree. He didn't speak until he was four and now we can't shut him up. He never had friends, now people seek him out everywhere we go. Mark wants to be a grounds keeper for the World Champion San Francisco Giants. He loves to golf and works at the local Golf Pro Shop and as a greens keeper for the county maintaining the golf course.

A lot has changed for him recently.  For some unknown reason, we vacationed last Christmas in Palm Desert, California.  All my kids thought I was nuts, they didn't know anything about it...but there is lots of golf there (Mark’s favorite!) and lots of sun...so I gambled that I could make everyone happy.  Mark, however, being the planner that he is, said "Mom the best junior college turf management program is in Palm Desert." And wouldn't you know the house we rented was a block from the school!

So we made a deal.  If Mark could find a job in Palm Desert before we left, he could stay there and go to school. (I knew he didn't have a chance, but challenges have always been a great motivator for him.)  He agreed.  He brought his resume with him, went out every morning and dropped off resumes at the millions of golf courses in the area.  On the last day, we saw an ad on Craigslist for an immediate opening in the cart barn at the historical La Quinta Country Club. Off he went, and was uncomfortably interviewed on the spot:

"When can you start?"
"Now"
"If you can say anything negative about yourself, what would it be?"
"I hate people that don't work."  (called me right after to ask if that was the right answer)

He received a call that afternoon to see if he could start in a week.

We found a little room for him about 5 miles from work.  Last weekend, he moved into his own studio across the street from College of the Desert, where he is on his way to an AS degree in Turf Management.  The superintendent at La Quinta has asked him to stay on over the summer and work with him so that he can teach him all he knows.  

These kids have so much potential and it is such a thrill that they are no longer treated as the "slow/dumb/irritating" kids.  With the work you do you have given these kids the ability to be confident and find a way to fit in in their own way.  It is certainly not an easy road, but boy is it worth it!

I am spending this weekend with him setting up his new apartment...how exciting is that!!

In observance of this year's Autism Awareness Month, The Golf Channel’s In Play with Jimmy Roberts aired a special feature on autism and golf.  Roberts profiled golf great Ernie Els and his wife Liezl. You can watch the video segment below.