U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Not Like Everyone Else, in a Very Good Way July 25, 2017 | Augusta, Mo. By Lisa D. Mickey

Amelia McKee started wearing mismatched socks to show her support for youngsters who face challenges because they are different. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)  

It takes moxie to show up at a USGA championship with one sock up and one sock down.

And it takes a special person to use a visual image of mismatched socks to express a social concern for others.

That’s exactly what Amelia McKee has done since age 11. She shows up at golf events wearing one colorful knee-high sock and one low athletic sock as a show of support for “kids who are different and kids who are bullied” because they don’t fit in.

“The whole thing started out for kids with disabilities to show them that just because they might be different from everyone else, it doesn’t mean they don’t have talents or abilities like others,” said McKee, 18, of Spring, Texas.

“I saw young girls getting bullied and treated badly because other kids thought they were weird or different,” added McKee, a senior at Klein Oak High School outside Houston. “So I came up with the idea to wear two different socks to show them that I was different, too.”

McKee made a connection with special-needs children while her family lived in Paso Robles, Calif. She has a cousin who has Down syndrome, and the child of close family friends also has the genetic disorder. Watching the children navigate social perceptions resonated with the golfer.

At 5-foot-8, McKee was always one of the taller kids in her classes, but she also had very short hair at one time.

“It was pretty different from the other girls, but the good thing is, I didn’t feel too different because of my height – which probably has a lot to do with the fact that I have three brothers,” she said. “They taught me that I didn’t have to fit in all the time.”

That steady support from her siblings gave her the confidence to be herself.

 

Amelia McKee, shown tracking a successful eagle putt on Tuesday, credits her three brothers for not making her feel that she had to fit in. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

 

“I want to help other people feel the same way I felt growing up,” she said. “I never felt like I had to be like everyone else.”

McKee also had to lean on her family as a support system during numerous relocations due to her father’s job in the petroleum industry. A sense of self-sufficiency was essential because of the friends left behind during her formative years.

McKee was born in Dallas, but moved to Dubai when she was 9. The family lived in the Middle East for 2½ years, then moved to California in 2012, where they lived until 2014 before moving back to Texas.

She learned to play golf around age 7 when her family lived in Houston, but it wasn’t until they lived in Dubai that she started playing competitively.

“I met some really good golfers there, including Rayhan Thomas, who is from India, but lives in Dubai,” said McKee, of her friend who reached the semifinals of last week’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.

When McKee’s family lived in Dubai, they were able to attend many professional golf events that typically featured players from the PGA European Tour. She was becoming a capable and confident young player and was often invited to compete in invitational events.

“It’s really, really hot in Dubai and not a lot of people will go outdoors,” said McKee. “When there are professional events there, there aren’t many people [in the gallery] because it’s so hot, so you don’t need all the ropes and you get to walk and talk to the players. It was a lot of fun.”

At these events, McKee spent time with European stars such as Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood. She also scored her only hole-in-one at age 10 while living in the United Arab Emirates.

When her family moved to California, she competed in California state tournaments, the Callaway Junior World Championship and in 2015, the Women’s North & South Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, N.C.

It was while she was in California that she began fund-raising for Reece’s Rainbow, a Down syndrome adoption grant foundation. McKee walked dogs and offered baby-sitting services, sending all of her earnings to Reece’s Rainbow.

“The charity helps little kids who were given up for adoption at a young age,” said McKee, who fund-raised for 2½ years. “I did what I could to help.”

While she is not currently raising funds for charity, McKee uses the platform of golf events to take a stand for others.

“I wear the different socks to anything golf-related,” said McKee, “such as a tournament that I'm watching, coaching (The First Tee), professional events and clinics.”

Players, Rules officials and tournament organizers see her mismatched socks and ask about them.

“I feel support when I come out here and I feel like I’m in a place where I can express myself,” said McKee, who has verbally committed to play college golf at Baylor University in fall 2018.

“Some people won’t ask about my socks because they think it’s because I’ve had an injury or something,” she added. “But plenty of other people know the story and tell them.”

 “Especially now, in our generation, people lose the ability to be unique because they’re worried about what everyone else will think of them,” McKee added. “Especially for young girls, and young girls who play golf, I want them to know they don’t have to try to fit in all the time. It’s OK to stand out.”

With her giving nature, McKee has found more than one way to stand out.  

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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