By Rich O’Brien
Tommy Morrissey fell in love with the game of golf at a very young age. As a toddler, he would watch golf with his father on the weekends. Then one day, when he was fourteen months old he hopped down off the couch and started mimicking the swings he saw on TV. The next day, Joe and Marcia Morrissey bought him his first set of plastic clubs. It would be the first of many sets of clubs that they have used in the past few years.
It seems that Tommy had golf dreams from a very young age because as soon as he was able to carry his clubs upstairs he slept with them in his crib. Sometimes his father would arrive at the golf course and a club would be missing; he immediately knew where to look for it.
One day his parents were shocked to see him totally engrossed in a video on his mother’s Ipad. When they asked him what he was doing, he said, “I am taking a golf lesson from Tiger Woods.” Tommy was a student of the game right from the beginning and amazingly, he has never had a formal golf lesson.
When he was three years old, he was “discovered” by Jeff LeFevre, the PGA Professional at Linwood CC in New Jersey. The local television news ran a story on Friday and the next day, the Ellen Degeneres Show called to set up an appearance on the show. It was not long before he caught the attention and imagination of the golf world as well. Soon this precocious three year old was living his golf dreams.
At the 2014 ParaLong Drive World Finals, his parents were asked to be the Keynote Speakers and Tommy was asked to hit the ceremonial first tee shot for the event. After he hit the tee shot 87 yards and straight as an arrow, he caught the imagination of The Golf Channel. That drive was also credited as being the world record for the longest drive by a limb deficient youth.
Other opportunities soon followed. Bubba Watson invited Tommy and his parents to dinner with his family at his home. Then later, they filmed a segment called “One Arm Reaches Millions” that was the most viewed video on the Golf Channel for 2015. He also challenged Tiger Woods to a putting contest for a popular segment on Fox Sports.
According to Joe Morrissey, “Bubba and Tiger have been so great to Tommy. They both have been fantastic. He loves them both and when he see them he runs up to them.” Joe adds, “Tommy is a sponge and he has soaked up Tiger’s setup and practice routine. And he has copied Bubba’s swing.” He also fondly remembers Rickie Fowler inviting Tommy inside the ropes and enjoy racing him down the fairways at the PGA Championship. And Jordan Spieth enjoys fooling around and playing with Tommy in the backroom at the Under Armour events. Tommy now calls many of the other top golfers in the world his friends.
Tommy may be a little boy, but he has big golf dreams. He also has an international social media reach of more than 37 million. Many of the videos have gone viral, but the video filmed at St. Andrews basically went ballistic topping out at 12 million views after it was featured on the Golf Channel and ESPN.
Competing against other kids his age, he has won numerous tournaments including two Central Florida PeeWee Championships. Last year, he finished second at the US Kids Junior Tour Final. And he recently became the first limb deficient child to qualify for the US Kids Junior World Championship which will be played at Pinehurst in early August.
His goal is to become the number one ranked player in the world. He calls many of the top golfers in the world his friends, and he would like nothing more than to beat them. Isn’t that what what friends do? As a student of the game, and living without limits, he enjoys the challenge of figuring out how to beat the best players in the world.
The Morrissey Message:
Joe Morrissey says that: “Our real mission is to give back. We have never accepted any compensation for our philanthropic efforts. We know we have been blessed and Tommy has been given so many gifts. Our way to give back is by putting on clinics that clearly demonstrate to kids and adults that all things are possible with a positive attitude.”
Marcia and Joe have never told their son that he could not do something simply because he is one armed. They feel that doing so would be, in effect, a confidence killer and it would have sapped his spirit. In fact, they have encouraged their son to try and fail because it is then, that he adapts, improvises, and overcomes whatever challenge he faces. And for Tommy there are no limits. Tommy will tell you, “ I never quit.”
Another message from their clinics is to never judge a book by it’s cover. According to Joe, “Sometimes life throws you a challenge and you have got to have the right attitude to overcome it.” They encourage kids to follow the anti-bullying methods and to accept everyone’s own version of awesome.
Their goal is to be able to share this message with as many people as possible within the guidelines of living a normal life. The effect that the clinics have on the spectators is often profound in that it changes their perception of physical abnormalities. In many cases, kids facing debilitating conditions, learn about Tommy and start playing golf. The Morrisseys hope that more and more kids from around the world are able to draw inner strength from Tommy’s story and realize that if Tommy can do it, so can they.