Inspired to play: Kyra Cox building stellar golf resume after vowing to help autistic sister

Kyra J. Cox - Courtesy of AJGA Courtesy of AJGA

Inspired to play: Kyra Cox building stellar golf resume after vowing to help autistic sister

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Inspired to play: Kyra Cox building stellar golf resume after vowing to help autistic sister

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Kyra and Keith Cox can thank the same person for getting them into golf.

Fifteen-year-old Kaylee Cox, one of Keith’s three daughters and one of Kyra’s two younger sisters, was the unlikely catalyst behind the family’s discovery of the game.

More than a decade ago, Keith got involved with Arc of Westchester – an organization based in Hawthorne, N.Y. that hosted a charity golf outing, known as Golfing for Kids, to benefit children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Shortly before, Keith had learned that Kaylee, then 3, had autism and wanted to help as much as he could.

He was happy to be a part of that golf outing but never had played the sport. He took lessons and immediately got hooked.

A few years later, 8-year-old Kyra, of South Salem, N.Y., “didn’t want to be home alone” and wished to support her sister, so she took part in Golfing for Kids. It was her first time on a course, and she got a number of compliments on her swing. Soon she was hooked too.

Keith said neither would’ve picked up the game without Kaylee’s presence.

“I think things happen for a reason,” said Keith, who has served as Kyra’s golf coach the past seven years. “Kaylee has definitely brought a lot of good stuff to us, especially Kyra.”

Krya J. Cox (right) and her sister Kaylee share a hug. (Kyra.J.Cox/Instagram)

Krya J. Cox (right) and her sister, Kaylee, share a hug. (Kyra.J.Cox/Instagram)

Indeed, Kaylee may have led her 17-year-old sister to her future profession. Kyra won the 2015 New York State Women’s Amateur, has made it to the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National and is a two-time winner on the AJGA. She recently signed with Furman, where she intends to obtain a degree in communications or journalism but also hopes to gain the necessary skills to make it in pro golf.

One reason Kyra may have an edge? She certainly doesn’t need any attitude check. After a second-round 81 Sunday at the prestigious ANNIKA Invitational USA at World Golf Village, she was disappointed but not distraught. She keeps things in perspective.

Kyra often writes about her autistic sister. In one story that got her dad teary-eyed, his golfing daughter made an important point: It’s a lot easier for me to be the top female golfer in the world than it is for Kaylee to do everyday things.

“I don’t take things for granted because I think to myself, Kaylee doesn’t have the opportunities that I have,” Kyra said.

Her parents first noticed Kaylee had signs of autism at around 18 months. Now a teenager, she goes to Benhaven School, which provides educational services to those with autism, in Connecticut.

But Kaylee loves animals and music. She’s heavily into electronics, with movies like “Finding Nemo” and “Spectre” (the latest James Bond film) on in the house 24/7 for stretches. She often has the TV and the radio going and something on an iPad playing as she goes to bed.

“And if you turn (anything) off while she’s sleeping, she’ll get up and turn it back on and go back to bed,” Kyra said with a laugh.

The family’s golfing inspiration – 14-year-old Katelyn also plays – doesn’t get out on the links much herself.

Kaylee’s influence led Kyra to participate in Golfing for Kids essentially every year since she took up the game. Last year Kyra raised $3,200 on her own at the outing. She also hopes to one day start a charity to help kids with disabilities.

In the end, the daughter echoes her father in how she feels about her golfing inspiration.

“I’m blessed to have Kaylee in my life,” Kyra said. Gwk

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