NOTE: November is National Awareness Month for Adoption. At the LPGA, we support and honor these families built around the blessings of adoption.
You learn so much about yourself in the process. When my wife and I decided to adopt our daughter Liza from China, we made sure that we knew everything. After five biological sons, who are now between 24 and 34 years old, what else did we need to know? But the moment the orphanage worker handed us our daughter, we found that we knew almost nothing.
First of all, the joys of parenting that come to each parent are magnified when you first hold your adoptive child. Maybe having a child and saving a child is a double blow. Or maybe it’s the joy of holding our girl in your arms after two years of waiting, piles of paperwork, visits from social workers and increasing stress. But the feeling is wonderfully different.
Then there are the unexpected attributes. Within a few months we found that we had a strong-willed, dynamic, and outgoing child who had compassionate instincts and who would also throw off a heartbeat attack. As we delved into the wider community of adoptive parents, especially girls from China, we realized that this is a common trait.
One day I asked one of the other mothers, “Why is that? Why are all these girls so strong and accomplished? “
Your answer blew me away. “Because the weak die before we get them,” she said.
It took us a couple of years to realize how much Liza loves golf. I took her to hit a few balls here and there before going to the pool, where she showed skillful athleticism. My sons never wanted to play golf. I traveled with them to every filthy baseball field in the south, cheering when it was appropriate and trying not to fall in the face when parents shouted terrible things at teenage referees. So you can imagine how I felt that afternoon when Liza climbed into my lap and said, “Daddy, can we go hit golf balls please?”
In the 16 years since then, I’ve never turned down this request.
That brings us to another family, the Solesbees, who have adopted their daughter Autumn through the North Carolina foster system.
“I was originally the golfer in the family,” said Donnie Solesbee. “I grew up with golf. I was an only child. My dad took me to golf when I was 10 and I became a pretty good junior golfer and worked as a pro for a while after college. But my father and I always had this bond.
“When Autumn first met us, we were going on weekend visits just looking for a good place to introduce her to my father, who was going to be her grandfather. Topgolf was a great place for that. So that was actually our only intention in the beginning. It was a great place to meet, five minutes from his house. But she loved it. So we hit a few balls and then had lunch and then (fall) asked if we could go back and hit more. “
Two years later, Autumn has won numerous U.S. kids golf events and is social media with a breathtaking swing, brave personality, and story that inspired the LPGA to feature the Solesbees in our #DriveOn campaign -Become a sensation.
“Now we have this person who stepped into our lives with a father and son who love golf, and she loves golf too,” said Donnie. “We thought about it a lot because when Autumn was in a foster family and there was a situation where she was going to be permanently adopted into a family for good, there were several families who were very interested in adopting Autumn . I am sure they would have been wonderful families. But you have no idea if golf was one of them. It’s just interesting how it worked out because she just absolutely loves golf.
“Now that she is part of our family, we do exactly what I did when I was a kid. My mother didn’t play, but she always drove the golf cart. Jamie (Herbst’s mother) does the same. We’re spending some time off on the golf course. This is what (golf) has given us from a family point of view. “
My sons are a gift. So far you have blessed us with 10 beautiful grandchildren. My oldest is a mathematician and a data analyst. Another son is studying chemical engineering. One teaches religion in a private high school, another has a career at Chick-fil-A, and one works as a history professor at the college. I couldn’t be more proud. But I had to go to the other side of the world to have a child just like me.
Liza and I play a lot. She’s on the Rollins College women’s golf team and hits me more than I’d like to admit. It also surpasses me by 20 to 30 meters. But you will not complain to me. No matter where the game takes them, I know I will have a golf partner for the rest of my life.
This story is not unique.
“I’ll be the main golfer in the family until fall and now I’m Autumn’s dad,” said Donnie. “That’s my title: Autumn’s Dad. I am excited about autumn every day and watch their self-confidence grow as they play golf. And I love the opportunity to golf as a family. I think we wanted to share our story because if there is someone who is thinking about adoption and is nervous about it, they can at least look at our story and say, ‘Look how they got together as a family and how they spend their money Time.’ I’m just happy that we can share that. I hope people love Autumn’s story as much as we do.
“It has been in our lives for a little over two years now. We met her on October 11, 2019. I was in my late forties at the time. I just turned 50 last year. I would say that I should be a father all my life. I just didn’t know. I honestly learned that about myself. And it was the most rewarding, most incredible experience I could ever imagine. “