Hearing impairment doesn’t slow Oklahoma standout Rylee Reinertson

Courtesy of OU Athletics

Hearing impairment doesn’t slow Oklahoma standout Rylee Reinertson

Men

Hearing impairment doesn’t slow Oklahoma standout Rylee Reinertson

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the September 2017 print issue of Golfweek.

Rylee Reinertson’s motivation is simple.

“He wants to seem as normal as any other kid,” said Paul Reinertson, Rylee’s dad.

But Rylee can’t help but stand out.

The Oklahoma senior towers at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds. The Gibbon, Neb., product was a high school basketball star, garnering interest from a few Division I schools.

And the 21-year-old college golfer, who suffers from severe to profound hearing loss, has worn hearing aids for roughly 16 years. It’s not clear when that issue started or why, but Rylee’s parents began noticing his hearing wasn’t quite right around age 3.

He soon was fitted for hearing aids. By age 10, the budding golfer and basketball player was advised not to play contact sports: A bad fall could mean losing the remainder of his hearing.

His whole family loved basketball: His father and mother, Carolyn, had played the sport in college.

The Reinertsons weighed things carefully. But Rylee was determined.

“I told them, ‘I love basketball, and I’m willing to take a chance,’” Rylee said.

Ultimately there was never a true on-court scare.

Golf has offered no such complications. Ryan Hybl, Oklahoma’s coach, has referred to Rylee as a dream to coach. He turned a corner last spring – after two-and-a-half seasons of fighting amongst the Nos. 5-7 spots, Rylee got his chance.

Hybl, who nicknamed Rylee “Big Stalk” in reference to his height and Nebraska roots, was impressed with his player’s palpable new confidence, and secretly wrote a note on his phone on Feb. 16:

Big Stalk looks the best I’ve ever seen him. He could take us the distance.

Hybl told Rylee that starting at the Southern Highlands Collegiate, he would be in the lineup for the next four events.

“It was kind of a sigh of relief,” Rylee said.

In that stretch Rylee produced a T-12 and a T-4, then tacked on top-10s at the Maxwell and Big 12 Championship as he proved a key piece in Oklahoma’s national title run.

He began the 2017-18 season at the Carmel Cup with a difficult 81. A final-round 70 was better, but Rylee didn’t make the lineup for the Gopher Invitational and will have to fight back for a starting spot.

He’s used to that battle, though. And he has plenty of ability: Rylee’s swing speed has topped 130 mph, and he has a handy short game.

He’ll also continue to wow in other ways. Reinertson is an excellent lip reader. The basketball skills still get use, too. At a recent team retreat, Garett Reband (6 feet tall) was trying to show off his dunking abilities and kept failing.

Hybl tossed the ball to Rylee and told him, “Stalk, go show this guy how to dunk.” The Nebraska boy did so with ease.

“My teammates all can’t (dunk), so they’re pretty jealous,” Rylee said, with a laugh.

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