Golf enthusiast combines passion, self-improvement

Senior Matt Klein’s time at Geneseo hasn’t exactly been conventional. The 21-year-old went golfing with professionals at the PGA Pro-Am Golf Challenge in Gainesville, Virginia on July 27. Klein is also affected by autism, a mental condition characterized by difficulties in communication. “I went to a scramble and I was partnered with Sangmoon Bae,” Klein said. This was no small feat. The South Korean is 23rd in the FedExCup Playoff standings and is ranked in the top 100 professional golfers worldwide.

Klein’s team finished third in the scramble. Klein, a military veteran and two other junior amateurs’ performances determined the team’s score.

Klein graduated from York Central School with a Regents diploma and earned the rank of Eagle Scout from the Boy Scouts of America. He was accepted to Geneseo under the Learn Independence, Vocational, and Educational Skills—LIVES—Program. Klein qualifies for the LIVES program because of his autism spectrum disorder.

“The LIVES Program is a four year, post-secondary program designed for students with moderate to severe intellectual or other developmental disabilities to give students the opportunity to experience college at a college-like setting,” LIVES Program project coordinator Elizabeth Hall said. “[The students] audit college classes, they do work internships on campus similar to a work-study student.” Faculty members and volunteer students run the program and work with the students for a few hours every day.

“He [Klein] is an amazing young man who has grown and developed,” Hall said. “His confidence is out there, he will help anybody that’s out, he’s a fantastic mentor to our new students and he’s a great friend to the students.”

For Klein, golf has been a way to help ease the stresses associated with his disorder. “At first, I used to pace a lot when I was a kid, but after I got the golf club in my hand, I paced less,” he said. “I’ve been addicted to golf ever since.”

Klein’s practice routine rivals that of any avid golfer: he plays 18 holes at least once a week to prepare for local and state Special Olympics golf events throughout the year.

Klein has been a golf fan ever since he was young. His favorite golfer is Arnold Palmer because “he won several tournaments” and he was able to attend the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York.

Golf is not the only passion that Klein has, however. He is a self-described “metalhead” and loves interacting with students while he works at the Corner Pocket—a job he has had for the past year.

“His desire was to work there for a second year,” Hall said. “He wanted to stay there because he liked the students that he was talking with and meeting with and it gave him the opportunity to practice those social skills—and that was his desire and his goal.”

In the classroom, Klein is a history enthusiast. He has audited several history and interdepartmental courses, including The Underground Railroad—one of his favorites. “He had a fantastic professor [associate professor of history Justin Behrend],” Hall said. “He did a great job [on his papers].”

As for his post-graduation plans, Klein is keeping his options open. “I would like to someday work as a greenskeeper at a golf course. Or a historian,” Klein said. “I’m always open to various opportunities.”

As a member of the Geneseo community, Klein is indispensible. His value to the LIVES program cannot be overstated and his positive attitude toward everyone he meets adds to all that makes Geneseo a great place to be.