Clover Special Olympian to play in Hilton Head PGA Pro-Am

Scott Rohrer has gone from a champion of the Special Olympics to playing with the PGA Tour pros.

Special Olympics South Carolina has announced that Rohrer will compete in the RBC Heritage ProAm next month on Hilton Head Island.

This is the first time an S.C. Special Olympian will be competing in the PGA-sponsored event, and a first for the 26-year-old golfer, who played with the Clover High School golf team at River Hills Country Club in Lake Wylie.

“I’m jealous,” said Jeff Rohrer, who regularly played with his son at Crowders Mountain Golf Club in Kings Mountain, N.C. “When he first started, I never dreamed of this. But he’s had a lot of opportunities because of how well he’s done.”

Scott Rohrer has been playing golf since he was 7. It wasn’t the first sport he’d played, but it was the one that would launch him on a nearly 20-year career as a Special Olympian.

“My dad gave me a club and I just started,” Rohrer said. “It never gave me a bad experience, and it just boosted my confidence.”

“He’s always been athletic,” Jeff Rohrer said, but his son’s autism left him ill-suited to the team sports that other boys played. “But we knew if we could find something for him to focus on individually, something that he really liked, he could excel.”

So Jeff Rohrer introduced his son to the game he had picked up from friends at church.

“I thought, ‘Let’s check and see if he can play this’,” Jeff Rohrer said. “And it was quite a surprise.”

Rohrer eventually started competing in the Special Olympics, where he won his first national medal as a teenager in 2005. He traveled to Denmark in 2014 for the Special Olympics World Golf Tournament, finishing with a bronze medal.

A year later, he improved on that performance with a gold medal in the Special Olympics summer games in Los Angeles. He finished 12 under par for the competition, a record for the games.

“That was a big experience for me,” Scott Rohrer said.

He has played in other Pro-Am events, including one organized by the Tiger Woods Foundation at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., where he was invited to eat dinner with Woods in the clubhouse.

With that experience and his gold medal behind him, Rohrer has his sights set high for the Pro-Am on April 11 at the Harbour Town Golf Links.

“I’m focused on winning,” he said. “I don’t set the bar to a little degree. I set it to a big degree.”

Rohrer won’t learn who he will be paired with until a random selection a week before the competition, but in the past, the Heritage has attracted some of the PGA’s top talent. The Special Olympics hopes the Pro-Am gives one of their athletes a chance to show he can play up to the standards of the pros.

“I believe this type of opportunity is the perfect example of our goal of promoting inclusion and acceptance,” said Barry Coats, president and chief executive officer of Special Olympics South Carolina. “Scott is a brilliant golfer and a terrific advocate for athletes like him and (an advocate for) if you practice hard and believe in yourself you can accomplish great things.”

The Rohrers owe that chance partly to an unknown sponsor paying Scott’s amateur entry fee for the event.

Jeff Rohrer runs a tree care business, where Scott has worked since high school operating a wood chipper and driving a crane. On weekends, he can be found on the course at River Hills, preparing for his next competition – whether it’s with the Special Olympics or otherwise.

“I’ve made a lot of friends along the way, and it’s kept a lot of hope in me,” he said. “It leads me to bring it to a new degree, and have as much excellence as possible.”

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062, @BristowatHome