Kiwis ‘chip in’ to help autistic boy Bayleigh Teepa-Tarau who claimed golf title after only playing three rounds – ever

2 min read

New Zealanders are chipping in to help the 12-year-old autistic schoolboy from a small rural town in the Bay of Plenty after he won his first golf title last week in borrowed clubs and basketball boots.

Bayleigh Teepa-Tarau is the new champion of the nine-hole golf competition at the national Zespri Aims Games held in Tauranga, a feat he accomplished after playing only three rounds of golf previously.

With a flurry of thunderous drives, spot-on iron shots and a beaming smile, he accumulated an astounding 87 Stableford points from his three nine-hole rounds.

Bayleigh also has autism; until recently, he spent most of his time in class under his desk, not speaking.


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“The thing I love about golf is hitting my driver,” Bayleigh told Golf NZ.

“I dreamed about coming here and finishing in first place. And I had a lot of fun.”

Bayleigh Teepa-Tarau on his way to victory. Photo / John  Broughton
Bayleigh Teepa-Tarau on his way to victory. Photo / John Broughton

He had only played three rounds of golf before the competition, and his small township of Tāneatua doesn’t even have a golf course. Bayleigh additionally assisted his schoolmates Lincoln Reritito and Pedro Robinson in securing the team title.

After word of Bayleigh’s impressive feat spread like wildfire through the Eastern Bay of Plenty and across the country, many people were inspired by his story.


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Local business Waiotahi Contractors bought the up-and-comer a set of clubs of his own.

“Waiotahi are thrilled to be able to help him on his journey! He is truly inspirational!” the company shared on its social media pages.

Locals commented on the post, claiming Bayleigh’s story “brought tears to their eyes”.

A givealittle page has also been set up for Bayleigh, for people wishing to support him in his golfing endeavours.

“Let’s make sure that next time he hits the green, he’s got his own clubs and help raise some money to get him some coaching so he can pursue his passion,” it says.

“Golf’s an expensive sport so let’s help give Bayleigh a boost so he can pursue his dream.”

“Who knows? He could be our greatest golfer yet.”

His parents, Hemi Tarau and Pare Teepa, as well as his grandfather and nan, were beaming with pride as they followed him around the course during the games.

“Oh, I’m so proud of him,” Bayleigh’s dad Tarau told Golf NZ.

Bayleigh Teepa-Tarau and his dad Tarau embrace after Bayleigh's stunning 87 stableford points in 27 holes.
Bayleigh Teepa-Tarau and his dad Tarau embrace after Bayleigh’s stunning 87 stableford points in 27 holes.

“I’m surprised at how well he did because of his autism, but then I’m not surprised. He wasn’t really a sports kid a few years ago but he’s just got right into it now and it has done amazing things for his confidence.”


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Bayleigh’s dad suspects there’s something in the autism spectrum disorder that could be perfectly suited for the temperament of golf.

“It doesn’t really fluster him too much if he does a bad shot. He just likes hitting, so he really doesn’t care. And he doesn’t know how good he is – although he’s getting told a lot about that in the last couple of days.”

Teacher-aide Whetu Wiremu, supported Bayleigh throughout his three days on the course but said their journey together started long before then.

When Wiremu realised that Bayleigh had been swinging a stick since he was able to walk, he made the decision to formally introduce the youngster to golf.

“He never used to even talk to anyone,” Wiremu told Golf NZ.

“I’ve done heaps of work with him for the last couple of years just to get him out of his shell and into sport and I just treated him like I treated all the other kids.”


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Bayleigh’s next move is to consider participating in the Special Olympics. In that regard, he has high expectations to live up to because Mitch Brown, a Kiwi golfer from Great Barrier Island, defeated athletes from all over the world to win the gold medal at this year’s Special Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.

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