More than four years ago, Thompson Garrard was presented with an opportunity that changed his life forever.
Garrard, an avid golfer who wanted to spread his love for the game, was looking for an avenue to teach golf. And when Special Olympics Santa Barbara was looking for coaches, it was the perfect opportunity. Garrard stepped up and decided to volunteer.
He was excited to share his love of golf and become a mentor and change the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. What he didn’t expect was the change it would have on his own life.
“Being a coach for Special Olympics has taught me to be more patient and has brought so much joy into my life,” said Garrard. “The sheer joy is what makes it.”
On Garrard’s first day as a volunteer coach, he was introduced to Zachary Alonzo, a Special Olympics athlete who was also sharing the experience of it being his first day.
“Four years ago I was lucky enough to get one word sentences from him. Because of Special Olympics, I’ve seen him become more outgoing and open. He’s met new people and tried new sports.” Since joining Special Olympics Alonzo has also tried bowling, softball, and bocce.
However, he eventually found his way back to golf.
“He has a knack for it,” said Garrard. “I am usually the one to get us into trouble and he’s the one to get us out.”
As a pair, they won the gold at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in the Level 2, 9 Hole Alternate Stroke.
When his partner Zachary Alonzo was asked why he likes golf, he replied, “Because it’s awesome.”