Ben Acker had his first taste of district play in golf in Mesquite last October at the District 10-6A Fall Preview, and relished every moment. He placed 27th overall in the tournament and fourth overall with his team, a feat that his Highland Park golf coach deemed “fantastic.”
The HP senior with Downs Syndrome takes the adage “there is no ‘I’ in team” personally. The 19-year-old faces some limitations, but he thrives on athletic teams. It’s where his personality is the brightest and his smile is the widest.
Have there been struggles along the way? Acker can’t think of one, he said. He’s more focused on the tournaments, the fun, and time with his teammates. In March his team came in first place at the District 10-6A Preview Tournament in Mesquite.
Acker’s journey to this point dates back to the start of his freshman year. Acker’s mother reached out to golf coach Jeff Loyd, who had known Acker since his days at Armstrong Elementary. She thought Acker could help out the team as a manager. But Loyd had another idea. “I knew that he played golf. So I thought forget the manager part, we’ll put him on the golf team, slowly take baby steps at first, and see how he does,” Loyd said.
Acker spent his first two years on the developmental team and competed in a couple of tournaments that were par 3 courses. Last year, he graduated to regulation tournaments and excelled, Loyd said. “The challenge for him isn’t the talent level. Ben has a lot of talent from a golf standpoint,” Loyd said. “It was just the endurance level. How long is he going to be able to go during a round before he loses a little steam?”
A left-hander like his favorite golfer Phil Mickelson, Acker puts in work four days a week at the Dallas Country Club and powers through team workouts twice a week. But the driving force for Acker is having his teammates behind him along the way. “My coach wanted me to play golf with him and become a part of the team,” Acker said. “Having friends and a team with me… for me it’s fun.”
To add to his athletic resume, Acker plays on the HP Scots Gold basketball team, and competes with Special Olympics teams in swimming and bowling. He earned gold medals in both in August and November 2015, respectively.
Acker will graduate this year from HPHS with a letter in golf. But before he goes, he has one more thing on his to-do list. When asked if he’s hit a hole in one, he simply replied: “No. Not yet.”