Passion for golf changes life of autistic boy
FULLERTON, Calif. (KABC) -- Eleven-year-old Wyatt Iles of Claremont is quickly making a name for himself on the junior golf circuit.
"He's way more advanced than a lot of the kids at his age right now," said his golf coach, Jay Lim.
Golf has given Wyatt confidence, but it has also changed his life. He was a normal developing child until just before his second birthday.
"Literally, it seemed like overnight, like turning off a light switch, everything was gone," said his father, Luther Iles. "All of his verbal skills were gone. It was extremely scary."
Wyatt was diagnosed with a regressive form of autism. Month after month went by with Wyatt not saying a single word. That's until one day when he was watching TV with his dad.
"We come across a golf channel, and practically a year went by, and the first thing he said is, when he saw the Golf Channel, 'What's that?'" recalled Luther.
From then on, the TV had to be on the Golf Channel. Wyatt was talking again. Luther bought his son a set of clubs and several years later, Wyatt is a top junior golfer and is in regular classes at school, earning straight A's.
Just recently, he was named to the Tiger Woods Foundation National Junior Golf Team.
"I was one of 18 kids of 1,000 applicants in the nation to be picked by Tiger Woods," said Wyatt.
Golf has gone from being part of Wyatt's therapy to now being his passion.
"For the most part, he's just like a normal child. I attribute it to his passion for golf. It completely pulled him out of it," said Luther.
Wyatt is getting ready for the Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego. His coach is hoping Wyatt can inspire other parents of children with autism.
"If they find any interest at all, hey, nurture it, because look at what can happen," the coach said. "This is a great story, not just for golf, but for autism as a whole."
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