Emily Ouellette pays no attention to the curious stares.

When she strides to the tee, picks up a club with her only hand and drives a ball down a fairway using only her right arm, she’s completely in the moment.

Ouellette has been forced to face difficult challenges without a left hand that was absent at birth, but she has never allowed her disability to get in the way of achieving her goals.

For Ouellette, playing golf for the Spruce Mountain High School team is just another challenge for the determined junior who also copes with scoliosis — an abnormal curvature of the spine.

Spending hours on the links has been a family form of recreation for the Ouellettes.

“Well, my whole family does it and it seemed pretty hard, and I like to take on new challenges, so I decided to try golf,” Ouellette said. “I also thought it would be easier than it is, but it is definitely more of a challenge than I thought.”

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Avid golfers spend years trying to master the confounding sport with two arms. Ouellette is playing a difficult game with one arm.

“Some people stare because they are not used to seeing it, but a lot of people are supportive of me doing this,” Ouellette said. “They just have to get used to it, that’s all.”

Ouellette copes with the frustrations and difficulties of swinging a club with one hand, but she has discovered the game is an enjoyable way to stay healthy.

“You get to exercise while you are having fun and you get to meet new people,” she said. “I definitely had to adjust everything about playing.

“I have to stretch extra because of my back. I have scoliosis. I have to practice cocking my wrist when you hit the ball. I pretty much do what everybody else does. (Spruce Mountain coach Dianne Fenlason) helps me as much as she can.”

Ouellette met another golfer who shared her passion for the sport — and he has become one of her biggest fans.

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Pointers from a new friend

Morse golf coach and Bath Country Club pro Leon Oliver watched in awe when Ouellette took a swipe at the ball with one arm during a golf match between his squad and Spruce Mountain.

The soft-spoken coach was impressed with Ouellette’s temerity and enthusiasm for the sport.

Oliver introduced himself to Ouellette and offered tips to improve her game during the competition.

“When we played the first match against them, I kind of went out and helped out a little bit,” Oliver said. “I have worked with people who have been challenged, so I gave her a couple of pointers.”

Oliver didn’t see anything wrong with helping an opposing player with a disability to improve her game.

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“It isn’t about that; it is about the kids having fun,” Oliver said.

When he found out members of his team showed Ouellette respect and support, he couldn’t have been more proud.

“We beat them pretty easily, but I was more proud of the way my kids acted than the way we won,” Oliver said. “At the end, I gave her a hug and said, ‘You know, I am proud of you.'”

Oliver didn’t stop there. He invited the whole family to the Bath Country Club and offered to give Ouellette a free lesson.

Support from home and away

Emily is Catherine Ouellette’s pride and joy, and she has always encouraged her daughter to take on new challenges in life. There is no holding back or making excuses when it comes to the Ouellettes’ daughter. They won’t allow Emily to live in a cocoon.

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“When she was young, she played basketball and soccer and softball, and was very good,” Catherine Ouellette said. “When she got out of the farm league and got into middle school, it was kind of heartbreaking, because she never got picked for the teams.

We thought it was because of her disability, because she played just as well as the other girls. All they would ever say was, ‘Gee, she’s really good, but too good for JV, not good enough for varsity.’ And we would just look at them (and think), ‘Can’t you just tell her she didn’t make the cut?'”

Mother and daughter played golf all summer before Emily came out for the high school team for the first time this season.

“She has her good days; she has her bad days,” Catherine said. “She also has scoliosis problems with her back, so we have to be careful of that because we don’t want her to blow her back out.”

When Fenlason and Emily met, the golf coach didn’t bat an eye upon learning one of her players would be playing the game with one arm.

“I didn’t know Emily,” Fenlason said. “I was told all my students wanted me to play a round of golf with them sometime in the summer. I was introduced to a young lady who had only one arm. I said, ‘OK, let’s go.’

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“I approached her just like any other kid. Like, OK, let’s learn how to play golf, so that’s what I did.”

When Emily was having a terrible afternoon on the course and feeling discouraged, Fenlason stepped in and had a chat with her distraught player.

“I said to her, ‘Emily, you are out here doing it. Half of your friends might be at home eating bonbons on the couch,” Fenlason said. “‘You are doing it and you know you are doing it for a lifetime, and you got some people who are 100 percent and they lack your motivation and your determination.’ That’s my praise for her: She is out there doing it.”

Fenlason described Emily as a strong golfer who can “crank it.” Oliver said the undaunted golfer can pump the ball.

“I am very proud of her just having the courage to do that and she doesn’t get discouraged,” Oliver said. “She always has a grin on on her face. I get goosebumps thinking about it. I hope I can do something for her.”


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