Barnegat Township resident Jacob Coupe last week won a silver medal for golf at the Special Olympic Games USA in Orlando, Fla.
Coupe was one of approximately 5,500 athletes competing from the U.S. in addition to the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. For the nine-hole golf event at the Orange County National Golf Center, the 20-year-old was one of the 10 competitors in his age group. He played in four rounds and finished with a 277 score.
“It was challenging because it was very hot out there,” said Coupe. “The course is different compared to where I play near home. When playing, I just hope that I could hit the ball straight and not slice it to the left or the right.”
His mother, Judy Coupe, said he also got to meet former football star Tim Tebow, whose foundation is a strong supporter of Special Olympics.
“Aside from the very hot and humid weather, it was a wonderful trip,” she said. “We’re all so proud of him.”
His father, Tom Coupe, introduced his son to golf seven years ago at the Ocean County Golf Course at Atlantis in Little Egg Harbor Township and he caught on quickly.
Judy Coupe said her son attends Barnegat High School special education programs as a super senior. He also works at the Barnegat Wawa on West Bay Avenue.
She said the Special Olympics represented “a long journey” for her son. According to his mother, Jacob was born with two very rare birth defects in his brain: agenesis of the corpus callosum and colpocephaly.
“Both are so rare it wasn’t detected until he was 5½ years old,” she said. “Jacob wasn’t able to sit, walk, talk until age 2, and underwent physical therapy at Bacharach Rehabilitation Hospital in Galloway. He struggled with balance, coordination, processing and learning at preschool, but again we were told he was just fine by a developmental specialist.”
But as a parent, she knew something was not right.
“After 5½ years we finally convinced his pediatrician that Jacob needed an MRI,” she said. “Then physical, occupational and speech therapy began. So this achievement is so special. Jacob sees his hard work has paid off.”
“I play nine holes, and my best score so far is a 63,” he said.
His mother said he also participates on the Barnegat High School Challenger Team, where they play flag football, basketball and softball.
“At 6-foot-6 he has a size advantage in basketball,” she said. “He also attends the group Wonderfully Made at Bayside Chapel (in Barnegat),” she said. —E.E.