Nine-year-old Autumn Solesbee won the Girls 7-9 division at the annual Drive, Chip and Putt golf tournament at Augusta National on April 3, 2022. From Huntersville, N.C., she achieved her most prestigious trophy yet two years after her adoption to parents Donnie and Jamie, reports Golf Digest.
Happy tears fell when Autumn received her trophy from her idol, former Masters’ champion and adoptive father Bubba Watson.
“The first thing she says to me when I met her this morning was that, ‘I’m adopted’ and she loves me because we adopted our two kids,” Watson shared. “I was overwhelmed about this little girl telling me [I’m her] favorite golfer.”
Autumn discussing adoption and why @bubbawatson means so much to her! We love that Autumn wants to share her adoption story! So many kids just need love and to feel safe to thrive! @DriveChipPutt @TheMasters @LPGAGirlsGolf @uskidsgolf @CHSNC pic.twitter.com/DSSYVkeU0Q
— Donnie Solesbee (@DonnieSolesbee) April 7, 2022
Autumn spent a portion of her early years in foster care. Living from one home to the next, she didn’t let it affect her sunny disposition.
“Our daughter Autumn didn’t choose the circumstances of her birth or where she spent the first years of her life,” her parents wrote in an article for LPGA. “She didn’t get to decide how long she’d be in foster care or whether someone would adopt her. But she did make a decision that was all her own. She decided to let hope and joy define her.”
Donnie and Jamie went through the process of adoption. They visited Autumn every weekend to get to know each other and the seven-year-old immediately connected with the couple. Both didn’t realize that golf will be part of their love language in the family.
In 2019, the Solesbees, together with their soon-to-be daughter Autumn, went to Topgolf in Greenville, S.C. to introduce the little girl to Donnie’s father. The future parents wanted to meet in a place where everyone could have a good time. Donnie and his father can play golf while Jamie and Autumn can enjoy the music and food at the venue.
“From the moment she picked up a club at Topgolf, Autumn loved the game. We couldn’t get her to leave. She wanted to stay at Topgolf and hit balls long after it was time to go,” the parents wrote.
“She was a natural in that she made contact with the ball more often than she didn’t,” Donnie said. “I would say that Autumn’s gift is that she has amazing body awareness. Once she’s shown how to do something, it’s easy for her to do it.”
He added that Autumn likes activities most children do like running and climbing, but what’s different is that she loves playing golf. “Her swing looked like a beginner’s, but once you showed her how to do it the right way, she just picked up on it so fast.”
The formal adoption papers came on April 21, 2020, and Autumn finally found her forever home. Like an 18-golf course, it was no easy feat. “We got our daughter through love and the legal system, a process that included a lot of prayers and conversations, as well as a mountain of paperwork and patience,” Donnie and Jamie wrote.
The Solesbees made sure they did not force golf on Autumn and allowed her to decide for herself if she likes the sport or not. She will be loved unconditionally and they will support whatever Autumn pursues in life.
Autumn is a natural at the golf course. She flourished and has won several junior golf events in less than two years. She even finished in the top 10 in the US Kids World Championship at Pinehurst.
“I like winning tournaments,” said Autumn. “And I like making friends and I like the feeling when I hit a great shot. It feels like a refreshing drink to me.”
In the article Donnie and Jamie wrote in honor of National Adoption Awareness month last November, they said, “Golf has given Autumn confidence. She is more confident at school and life in general as she has progressed in the game. We owe a lot of that to her achievements in golf. The game has become part of our family’s love language. Even if she chooses to do something else as a teenager or later in life, the confidence, poise and focus that she has gained will likely stick with her forever.”
“Every day we grow together as a family,” wrote the Solesbees. “We have learned so much from Autumn’s strength, resilience, hope and joy. She personifies “grit and grace.”