5-time PGA Tour winner has autism spectrum disorder and works on self-growth, he tells Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein
After an exceptional junior and amateur career, Billy Mayfair won five times on the PGA Tour in the 1990s yet felt oddly out of place, on and off the golf course.
In late 2019, a lifetime of uncertainty finally came with some clarity: he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Mayfair, 54, recently spoke with Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein about his ASD, which resembles Asperger’s syndrome. He functions at a high level but faces many challenges, primarily in processing information.
Mayfair, who grew up in Phoenix and attended Arizona State, won the 1986 U.S. Amateur Public Links, the 1987 U.S. Amateur and was a two-time Pacific Coast Amateur winner. He was one of the PGA Tour’s top players in the 1990s and early part of the 2000s, earning more than $20 million. In recent years, he has competed on the Champions Tour. Yet with all of those outward signs of success, as Apstein reports in her interview with Mayfair, something wasn’t quite right.
After he was disqualified from a Champions Tour event in 2019 for two rules infractions in a span of seven holes, he underwent a battery of tests and the ASD was revealed. In finally talking about his diagnosis, Mayfair explains why he had a reputation for being a slow player and often was viewed as obstinate and defiant.
“I would come home and or go back to the hotel and lay there, and 30 minutes later I’d go, Why did I answer that way? That was a stupid answer, Billy,” he told Apstein for a story on SI.com.
Mayfair has talked about his diagnosis because he wants to change perceptions of him, and he is working with the Champions Tour to accommodate his disability. He and his wife, Tami, who was instrumental in prodding her husband to be diagnosed, also hope to do charity work to support autistic athletes and their loved ones.
“Look at what I’ve done in my career,” he said. “Not only am I a very good athlete, I’m also a good husband. I have a great wife. I’m happily married. I have a wonderful son. I have lived, and I am living, the dream life. And just because I have this disability doesn’t mean that I can’t have that.”
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