As someone who’s golf knowledge spans as far as the width of the hole in the mini golf windmill and only feels comfortable using golf jargon when it includes yelling “Four!” before doing something dangerous, I cannot relate to Albane Valenzuela’s love of the game. I can, however, relate to her love of her brother and devote caddie, Alexis Valenzuela.

Golfweek reported a recent story on Albane and Alexis who was diagnosed with autism and was non-verbal for the first 5 years of his life. The bond between brother and sister has always been strong but Alexis’ path from a non-verbal 5 year old to the teenager who is able to caddie for his sister in the 2017 European Ametuer and U.S. Women’s Amertuer was not easy. The article from Golfweek explained that “it took a team of seven people, hours of therapy each day and a million baby steps” to get Alexis to where he is today.

Alexis’ mother, Dianne Valenzuela, and father, Alberto Valenzaula have taken the prognosis that they received when Alexis was three which predicted he would never be able to go to school or talk and took it as a challenge, not a sentence. “We always talked about it. We confronted it.” said Alberto Valenzuala, speaking to Golfweek about how his family dealt with his son’s diagnosis. His wife echoed that openness and honesty saying, “I think he’s a fighter. I don’t see a limit for him.”

Thanks to the dedication of his family, the nuns who allowed Alexis to attend school for 10 years, and Alexis’ perseverance he is now not only verbal but able to speak both French and English fluently and can even hold a conversation in Spanish. Alexis, who identifies the severity of his autism as a six on a one to ten scale, has seen development in himself as well. “When I was younger I was really ashamed about it,” admitted Alexis. “Now I’m dealing with it. I can laugh about it.”

The growth Alexis has experienced allows his connection to his sister to grow. Both individuals are very supportive of one another. According to Golfweek, Albane wrote in her application to Stanford University, the institution in which she is currently a sophomore, “My brother is kind of everything to me.”

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