SILVER SPRING, Md. (WDVM) 34-year-old North Bethesda resident Jason Pauley is a methodical golfer.
“How hard am I going to hit it or what angle am I going to hit it? Where do I have in mind and speed I have in mind,” Pauley said he thinks about every time before he hits the ball.”
Pauley trains playing golf at Northwest Golf Course in Silver Spring every week.
“He has a unique ability to just focus on right now and hit this shot,” Pauley’s instructor Martin Zadravec said.
Though Pauley has been playing golf for only six years, he jokingly told WDVM that he still doesn’t know anything about the sport that he picked up when he was 28.
But the path to the green for Jason wasn’t the easiest.
“When I was 12-years-old, I was in horrible, horrible, horrible car accident,” Pauley said.
Pauley and his family were on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware when it happened.
“My wife and Jason and his brother and a couple of other kids were on their way over to New Jersey to go to the amusement parks,” P. J. Pauley, Jason’s father, said.
Jason doesn’t remember much from that day.
“We were going through a green light and we had the right of way,” Jason said. “And all of the sudden this one Delaware state police officer runs right through a red light and broadsides our truck and the truck flipped over two and a half times.”
Jason was in critical condition.
“Jason and my wife were very bad condition, at the point where they really didn’t think they were going to live,” P. J. said.
In a challenging time, P.J. didn’t give up hope.
“When Jason was in his coma, I used to tell him, don’t give up. For any reason, don’t give up. He remembers that, he tells me all the time,” P. J. said.
In more than 20 years since the accident, Jason has faced many health challenges and stumbling blocks. But it hasn’t stopped him from achieving success on the golf course.
“It helps him in every aspect of his life,” P. J. said.
After his coma, Jason spent more than a year in a full body cast and was diagnosed with permanent short term memory loss.
“I can remember what happened 20 years ago,” Jason said. “But I can’t tell you what happened 20 seconds ago.”
Looking for a new hobby at 28-years-old, Jason took up golf, but due to his injuries, struggled with his swing.
“I said hang on a second, are you willing to try something you might never have done before,” Zadravec said. “But if it works, I think you can have a whole lot of fun with it.”
Zadravec brought out some left-handed clubs for Jason, which is a challenge for any right-handed golfer.
“Immediately, he hit nine-iron after nine-iron and got it in the air right away,” Zadravec said.
Jason got involved with the Montgomery County Special Olympics and immediately was turning heads.
“He started swinging the golf club and I was like, ooh, he’s pretty good,” Montgomery County Special Olympics Coordinator Shelly Bogasky said.
Within months, Jason was a national champion.
“It’s just one of the biggest accomplishments, that I’ve ever accomplished and done in my life,” Jason told WDVM. “After the five or six months I played golf, literally, made me win the United States Special Olympics golf tournament down in St. Lucia, Florida.”
Zadravec tells WDVM that he’s grateful to be Jason’s instructor, and Jason is an example to other people he trains.
“Sometimes I go home smiling just having had a chance to be around him,” Zadravec said.
While Jason inspires others, he says his inspiration is from his father.
“He is my inspiration, he is my goal, he is my father, he is my life,” Jason said. He is the best I got, and he’s the best father you could ever hope for in your life.”
And Jason has touched his father’s life just as much.
“As a parent you’re always proud, but when you have a child that has to overcome things like that, it’s happier,” P. J. said.
Jason says his success, is an example that you can do anything no matter how hard it might seem.
“If I’ve been through it, you’ve been through it. If I can do it. You can do it. Just believe in yourself and gain confidence,” Jason said. “That’s all you have to do in your life is believe in yourself. That’s how I do it every day.”
Jason’s mother Louise Ford-Pauley, passed away in 2011, Jason requested that this story be dedicated her and Cooper Sheppard, who passed away in the accident.