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KAWAGOE, Japan – Albane Valenzuela is one of 29 players in this week’s Olympics field who also competed in the 2016 Games and while she cherished that experience, this week at Kasumigaseki Country Club promises to be truly special.
Valenzuela will have her brother, Alexis, caddying for her. He was diagnosed when he was 2 years old with autism and doctors told his parents he would probably never be able to speak or attend school. Alexis Valenzuela is a sophomore at SMU and speaks three languages, including French and Spanish. He’s also going to be a valuable member of Team Switzerland this week.
“I went with a regular caddie and it was great, but it just didn’t feel quite right, I felt like I needed more support. Someone who knew me better on the course. Especially when I get nervous or under pressure. He knows me better than anyone,” Albane Valenzuela said. “When I get grumpy over a putt he knows how to calm me down.”
Valenzuela wanted Alexis to caddie for her at the ’16 Games in Rio but he was too young. Instead, he was on the bag at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur where he was inspired to speak publicly about his autism for the first time.
“I thought maybe it’s time to see how people react to it,” Alexis Valenzuela said. “The response was very supportive. That was totally the opposite of the outcome I thought it was going to be. Everyone was super open-minded.”
Alexis Valenzuela has caddied for Albane in her last six starts and is an accomplished golfer who helps keep her calm on the course, but more importantly, as she told Golfweek in 2017, he is her “everything.”