28 Apr 2021 | Feature stories | Participation | Women and girls |
Natascha’s inspirational MyGolf story
by Martin Blake
It’s not every day that MyGolf can claim to have changed a life. But in Natascha Tennent’s case, it’s true.
In #MyGolfgirls Month, it’s a tale worth celebrating.
Tennent, 14, nowadays plays at Wynnum Golf Club in Brisbane’s east and has represented both Queensland and Australia at Special Olympics level in amongst her year-nine studies at Brisbane Adventist College.
But back when she was 11, the odds of her becoming a star golfer were long.
That’s because Tennent is on the autism spectrum as well as having Tourette Syndrome and a rare physical disorder called ligamentous laxity.
The combination of the tics that many Tourettes sufferers experience and the weakness in her legs caused by the ligament issues meant that she sometimes fell quite suddenly.
As her mother Kathleen Tennent recalls, she and husband Art Pagaduan were somewhat sceptical when Natascha announced that she would have a crack at a precision game like golf. Fortunately, they shook it off and transported her to a MyGolf clinic at Pacific Golf Club, near the family home in Carindale, eastern Brisbane.
She was hooked.
She went back to MyGolf, again and again, then much later joined Wynnum as well as Pacific.
These days, the game is everything to her, and she has begun participating in Golf Australia’s All Abilities competitions. “I just love being outdoors,” she said this week. “It makes me relax.”
Ironically, at the time she went to Pacific for that clinic, she had no idea what she was in for.
She’d previously tried tennis, without success. “I went eenie-meenie-mynee-mo and golf won,” she said. “I hadn’t even heard what golf was! I didn’t even know it was a sport!”
Her lowest 18-hole score is 87 and her putting, she says, is her strength. She practises every day. Her target is a single-figure handicap and she wants to travel overseas to play again; she won a gold medal at the Macau Golf Masters last year and is aiming for the Berlin Special Olympics in 2023.
Yet from the outside, it feels like it is about far more than that.
“I think it’s changed her,” said Kathleen Tennent. “I don’t think she’d be the young lady she is today without it (golf).
“I think her autism would be worse, her other disabilities would be a lot worse than they are. It’s been a huge self-esteem boost for her as well. It’s changed everything. I mean, she loves going out and practising, she just lives and breathes it, basically!”
Kathleen Tennent believes it helps physically too. For instance, the walking helps with Natascha’s ligament problems. “It’s massively therapeutic. If she’s having a bad day we take her out to the driving range to hit balls. It doesn’t seem to frustrate her as much as it does us. She has a whole different concept to it.”
Not that it has been all smooth sailing. Natascha’s mother recalls at her second MyGolf clinic an incident when the coach placed some golf balls down and asked the participants not to hit, walking out in front of them to speak. “Natascha can’t wait for anything, of course,” said Kathleen Tennent. “She’s better now, obviously. But at the time if she saw a ball, she’d have to hit that ball no matter what. So Natascha hit the ball and hit him square in the chest!”
The coach forgave Natascha. A lesson was learned.
Of course, it helps when you have a great attitude.
“Tash is pretty open with her autism,” said Kathleen Tennent. “Because one thing she says is people have to like her for her. She’s open about it. She likes to advocate and say: ‘Just because you’ve got a disability doesn’t mean you can’t play what you love’.”
Now that’s a quote for the modern world.
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