Tyler Lagasse Blog

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Deb Lagasse’s connection to the game of golf is the most powerful I’ve ever seen. And she doesn’t even play the game.

 Deb’s son Tyler is a 23-year-old golfer. He’s quite accomplished, breaking 80 with some degree of regularity. He’s got a room full of trophies and medals that reflect many hours spent honing his game.

But that’s not why Deb Lagasse loves the game of golf so deeply. Golf provides something more valuable to her than a way for her son to excel. If the golf course isn’t where Deb feels closest to her son, it certainly is the place where it’s easiest to be his mom.

Tyler Lagasse is autistic. While that term is now used to describe a wide range of behaviors, autism is a disability that inhibits one’s ability to make connections with others. Tyler has a highly developed ability to interact. I could’ve talked golf with him all day long during our visits, but in our interview, Deb told me of some of the limitations in their relationship. Her voice cracking, she told me that her experience coming home from work is different than what happens when so many other parents walk through their doors at the end of the day. “I don’t always get the hug,” she said.

Deb Lagasse is a strong woman—a dedicated, loving advocate for her son. There’s not a touch of drama in her, when it comes to meeting the challenges of raising a child with autism. But the pain was easy to see during our interview as she was describing this fundamental difference in her experience as a mom. And then a big smile broke across her face.

 “But not at the golf course. I always get the hug there.” Deb’s theory is that golf gives Tyler what he craves most: a sense of calm and serenity, as well as a clear set of rules to follow. There’s nothing unexpected at the golf course for Tyler, nothing unknown to spike his anxiety. So when he walks off the 18th green, and Deb approaches, part of his routine is to reach out, wrap his arms around her and tell her, “I love you.” 

You can search every golf course in America. You won’t find a more compelling example of the power of golf than watching the way the game provides the most reliable source of hugs for a mother who savors them. In fact, it’s so powerful, Deb Lagasse recently signed up for her first golf lesson, figuring she’s got to get as close as possible to the game that’s given her son, her husband and herself so much.