He won a national tournament in golf after just playing three rounds and picking up a golf club for the first time in his life.
A 12-year-old golf prodigy from New Zealand shocked the world after he won a national golf competition, having only ever played three games in his whole life. Bayleigh Teepa-Tarau, who has autism, became the new champion of the nine-hole golf competition at the Zespri AIMS Games. The event is a week-long intermediate-age sports tournament in Tauranga with over 11,700 participants from 373 schools around the country and overseas. Teepa-Tarau, who is from Tāneatua, a small village in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, began to play only two weeks before the competition. It was the first time he ever picked up a golf club.
"I dreamed about coming here and finishing in the first place and I had a lot of fun," Teepa-Tarau told Stuff. Jamie Troughton, a contractor for the annual games, recalled how the young prodigy chanced upon the game as he stepped onto the fairways at Mount Maunganui Golf Club. "He strode confidently from tee to green, his expression lodged somewhere between casual focus and easy joy. His booming drives helped him amass a staggering 87 Stableford points from his three rounds, never wavering," Troughton shared.
His parents, Hemi Tarau and Pare Teepa, could not be more proud of him. Dad Tarau added, "I'm surprised at how well he did because of his autism, but then I'm not surprised. He wasn't really a sports kid a few years ago, but he's just got right into it now and it has done amazing things for his confidence." He noticed his son did not get flustered if he got a bad shot. In fact, he just enjoyed hitting. "He doesn't know how good he is," he added.
Teepa-Tarau's teacher aide, Whetu Wiremu, is also incredibly proud of the progress he has made. "Winning a medal was just a bonus. The real win was seeing his confidence mixing with other kids and hearing him speak," Wiremu said. "He never used to even talk to anyone. I've done heaps of work with him for the last couple of years just to get him out of his shell and into sport and I just treated him like I treated all the other kids. He ain't no different in my eyes."
Despite growing up in a small town without a golf course, a 12 year-old school boy has sent golfers into a backspin after winning a national title.— The Project NZ (@TheProject_NZ) September 14, 2023
We’re about talk to the amazing Bayleigh Teepa-Tarau about what that was like. pic.twitter.com/XP8jnkbyss
Wiremu also spoke of the importance of the community's children and young students taking part in activities like sports. "They come from a place where there's poverty, gangs, drugs, violence and for them to have this type of opportunity to see and meet people like this is just real heart-warming for me," he said. "They've come a long way and for them to improve that much in such a short amount of time, honestly, I'm just so proud."
Not only did Teepa-Tarau win the individual competition, but he also won the team title in collaboration with his schoolmates Pedro Robinson and Lincoln Reritito. The board even had to raise money to send the Tāneatua School students to the games. So when the boys played Te Ahuru Waititi, Tāneatua School's sports co-ordinator was overcome with emotion and burst into tears. "It's really, really emotional for me because I know the backgrounds of our kids and the hardships and the trauma–it's really hard out," she said.