Statesboro High graduate Taz Wilson is about to embark on the experience of a lifetime.
A four-year letter winner on the Blue Devil golf team, Wilson was selected by the Dream On 3 organization, who is helping her dream of attending a professional golf event become a reality. Wilson and her family will attend the KPGA Women’s PGA Championship this week at Congressional Country Club, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Wilson was born with tibial hemimelia which is an extremely rare congenital limb deficiency, characterized by a complete or partial absence of the fibula. Just before her third birthday, both of Wilson’s legs were amputated, and later she was fitted with prosthetic legs in order to help her walk.
Wilson’s condition and her love of sports made her a perfect candidate for the Dream on 3 team who create sports-themed experiences for those, ages 5-21, who are living with a life-altering condition. Unlike the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Dream on 3 is in the business of making sports dreams come true.
Not only will Wilson and her entire family get airfare and accommodations, but they'll also receive a VIP experience at the event where she will get private lessons with adaptive golf instructor Gabriella Miller and will get to meet LPGA Tour Pro Marina Alex who has nearly $4,000,000 in career earnings.
“I’ve never had anything like this before so it’s a little overwhelming,” said Wilson. “It’s my first time even being on a plane so I am a little nervous. I’m really blessed to be given this opportunity.”
It’s been a whirlwind week for Taz, who has already had an article about her upcoming event on pgatour.com. She also did an interview with the PGA tour on Sirius XM Radio this weekend as she prepares to leave Tuesday morning to attend her first ever professional golf event
In 2019 Taz was a 15-year-old freshman who was trying to decide on possibly playing a sport. She liked basketball, but found out quickly that it would be a pretty tough sport to compete in. After meeting with her adaptive physical education teacher, Don Garrick, she decided to give golf a shot.
“I had been working with Taz since she was in Pre-K,” said Garrick. “I worked with her for a few years, and then they moved away and I ran into her mother and asked how she was doing. She said she was about to be in high school and she was really looking for something to do as far as extra-curricular activity. She was afraid of falling if she played basketball and I suggested golf. We put together an old set of clubs and we were off.”
“Mr. Garrick loves golf and suggested I give it a try,” said Taz. “We went over to Forest Heights Country Club and he brought a few clubs. We just hit a few putts and a few chips and I really loved it. I’ve stuck with it ever since.”
Taz’s mother, Chirika, feels getting involved in the game of golf during her freshman year was a real game-changer for her daughter who had been struggling with finding an identity.
“She was at an age when she really needed to feel a part of something,” said Cherika Wilson. “I talked to her about possibly doing therapy and she didn’t want to do that. Golf was something that really got her out of her shell. She loves to be outdoors and I think she likes the challenge of golf and getting better.”
The next hurdle to overcome was getting clubs made for Taz. Since she can’t bend over, the clubs had to be a little longer than most and she was able to be fitted for special clubs in Savannah.
One of the toughest things for Taz is the fact that she is a double amputee above the knee, which makes it impossible for her to turn her body in order to generate power in her swing. Flat surfaces don’t give her many problems, but she typically needs help on an uneven lie or getting into a bunker.
“One thing golf has helped me a lot with is my balance,” said Taz. “I am able to ride in a cart but only to a certain spot and then I have to walk to the ball. I hate having to get into the sand traps, but I’ve gotten a lot better with it. My upper body has gotten a lot stronger from playing and practicing and my timing is much better now than it was when I started.”
Simple things that people take for granted were a challenge for Taz, who had to learn how to walk onto a bus in order to ride to matches with her Blue Devil golf team.
“To just be able to ride on the bus with other kids was so special for her and something she had to work on,” said Wilson. “When she was younger, if her class went on a field trip, she would have to ride a separate bus with a ramp and ride by herself. She worked really hard with Tina Rigdon, her physical therapist, to learn how to walk up the steep steps into the bus in order to ride with her teammates to her golf matches.”
As far as scores go, Taz has managed to shoot in the lower 50’s for nine holes, but has yet to break 100 for 18 holes. Even though her high school golf career is over, breaking 100 is still a goal she hopes to achieve in college.
“I’m going to Valdosta State this fall,” said Taz. “I know they don’t have a women’s golf team. If they start one, I’d love to be a part of it. But if they don’t, I still want to keep playing golf in the future.”