Golf Academy of America Student Joshua Deer participates in Els for Autism Golf Challenge
Jul 13, 2015
Joshua Deer is a 20-year-old Golf Academy of America Dallas student from North Richland Hills, Texas who was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. In May, he participated in the Els for Autism Golf Challenge finale in Las Vegas, where he shot an 81. Joshua's family collectively raised $15,000 to help people with autism through the Els Foundation.
Deer initially became interested in getting involved with the Autism Foundation when he watched Ernie Els win the British Open and learned Els' son had autism, too. The foundation was holding a tournament in Dallas, so Joshua played and got to know Mary Kay Willson, director of Els for Autism. She encouraged him to attend the event in Las Vegas. While there, Liezl Els asked Joshua to be interviewed by CBS and PGA.
Sports have always been a big part of Joshua's life, primarily golf and hockey. He is also an encourager who promotes positivity and good character both on and off the sports fields.
Joshua began playing golf as a child with his dad, and then started watching the PGA Tour. Even though years of playing hockey had affected his swing, his high school golf coaches encouraged him to continue playing and he began working with golf pro Josh Smith.
"He helped me smooth it out so I can crush the ball with my driver about 300 yards," Deer says.
As co-captain of his golf team senior year of high school he led his team to the state tournament. He also placed individually at district and regionals. Coaches and teammates named him M.V.P. for both his junior and senior years. His friends referred to him as "Little Phil" after Phil Mickelson. During the summer of 2014, he began playing golf almost every day and started working at Iron Horse Golf Course.
One day Joshua was practicing with the simulator at a local Dick's Sporting Goods when an associate approached him and his mother about Golf Academy of America. They looked into it but decided to attend the University of North Texas instead. After a year and a half, Joshua realized that Golf Academy of America was a better fit for him and he enrolled in January 2015. Joshua' new classmates surprised him by wearing blue to honor him on World Autism Day in April.
"I was nervous about Golf Academy at first," he says. "But everyone is so nice and it is smaller and better for me."
He finds the classes interesting and was paired with a tutor who works with him to be successful in his classes. His two favorite courses have been Club Repair and Advanced Elements of the Short Game. He also really enjoyed his Attitude and Motivation course.
"I want a career in golf and this will help me prepare for my future," says Joshua.
Among Joshua's favorite golfers are Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth. He has attended the Byron Nelson and The Colonial for several years and was invited to the 2014 Pro-Am for both tournaments. He was contacted by David Campisi, owner of Campisi restaurants, and asked to walk with him between the ropes and help him read his line of putts on the green. One day, his family hopes to attend the British Open.
When asked what Dallas golf course he would recommend, Joshua says it's a hard choice. His favorite is Iron Horse Golf Course because he spends so much time working and practicing there.
"Fossil Creek is another one of my favorites," he says.
When Joshua isn't on the golf course, he plays on a men's recreational hockey team and serves as assistant equipment manager and junior chaplain for the Lone Star Brahmas. On the weekends, he travels with his dad and brother to the family ranch to hunt feral hogs.