By Ellen Condon, Rural Institute Transition and Employment Projects Director
Allen Gotcher was introduced to golf his freshman year through Special Olympics. No one knew at the time what a large role the game would play in his life. He quickly took to the sport and joined the high school team while continuing to play for Special Olympics. He lettered both his junior and senior years, attended nationals his junior year, and was awarded most consistent player and top golfer for the high school his last year of school.
Allen's coach and teacher's aide Greg Grove shared that as Allen's confidence grew through golf, he became more outgoing in class and in his academics. Allen's interest in reading began with golf magazines that Greg gave him thinking that he would enjoy the pictures. When Allen began coaching Greg on his golf swing and referencing information he had learned through the golf articles, Greg realized he had seriously underestimated Allen. Allen said that once he began reading about golf he realized that reading wasn't so bad after all...and now he reads for fun. In classes, Greg noticed Allen was far more engaged, raising his hand and contributing to discussions. He may have been motivated to learn about Scotland because of the historical golf courses there, but then he applied this knowledge in his geography class.
Allen was recruited by staff at Indian Springs Golf Course in Eureka, Montana during his junior year to retrieve balls on the driving range. He worked part-time, three days a week. This summer he is working full-time, washing golf carts and attending the greens. His days off are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but Allen says he spends a lot of his free time at the course hitting balls and golfing. As an employee he golfs for free.
Allen lives in his own apartment and obtained his driver's license in August. He was a bit nervous living on his own at first...now he really enjoys it. Allen wasn't sure he was ready to be totally independent but says he is better about remembering to vacuum and fixes most of his own meals (although he admits to not cooking from scratch).
When asked what his current goals are, Allen replied that he would like to learn how to cook healthier meals. He is thinking about connecting with the chef at the golf course to ask for some of her recipes. He might also look for cookbooks. Allen mentioned contacting the school to see if he could volunteer in the cooking class for his former teacher, Mrs. Salminen. Maybe cooking will be his next passion and turn into Allen's winter job!