Two years ago, Carter Bonas had thoughts of taking his own life. Now, at 10, he has his own golf clothing line, hangs out with legends of the sport, and is an inspiration to others.
Spectrum Golf founded by 10-year-old Carter Bonas
Just two years ago, Carter Bonas was a different person. Even though he was only 8 years old, the little boy had suicidal thoughts. Today, however, the 10-year-old golfer with autism is thought of as a role model for those on the spectrum after starting his own extra-comfortable golf clothing company, Spectrum Golf.
This week at the Chubb Classic presented by SERVPRO at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, South Florida, 10-year-old Carter Bonas received a behind-the-scenes tour, along with his parents Eddie and Dr. Thelma Tennie, according to local news outlet Naples Daily News on Friday.
The family met two-time major champion and World Golf Hall of Famer Ernie Els, who has his own foundation supporting those with autism. Els’s own son Ben, 19, is on the spectrum. Then on Friday, Bonas was an honorary observer, along with his golf instructor Corey Henry of the Country Club of Coral Springs, walking with Els and fellow tour pros Bernhard Langer and Retief Goosen.
"It’s going to be amazing," Bonas said before the round. "I would just like to thank everyone."
Spectrum Golf founded by 10-year-old Carter Bonas
Bonas started his company, Spectrum Golf, when he was 10, and only got into the game a couple of years ago.
"I chose golf because it was a sport that I felt like I could take my time and the coach didn’t yell, I didn’t get touched, and I got to be with nature most of the time," he told Naples Daily News.
Bonas’ acceptance in the golf world has been so important, particularly considering where he was just two years ago.
"It means the world to us to be able to see him in a positive light, such a big change from two years ago when he actually had suicidal ideation," Thelma Tennie said, "to go from always feeling down about himself and believing the bad things that people would say about him.
"Now he knows that people say mean things and it’s OK, and how to just do your best and what really matters is you, your performance, how you respond to things and to always be kind no matter what. When someone’s being mean, you walk away or you just be kind back."
Thoughts of life without parents prompts inspired Carter Bonas
Part of the inspiration for Bonas to start his own company came from wondering what his life was going to be if something happened to his parents. The Tennies simply reassured him he would be taken care of, but when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the conversations became a bit more serious, to the point they shared their wills and trust information with him.
Bonas wasn’t satisfied, though, simply with knowing that his parents’ assets would be passed on to him.
"He didn’t just say, ‘Oh, you’re going to leave me money’ or ‘OK, you’re going to leave me the house,’" Thelma Tennie told Naples Daily News’ Greg Hardwig. "He went a step further and said ‘But what am I going to do for work? What am I going to do? Nobody’s going to hire me because I can’t even get a friend. No one’s going to hire me.’
"Now he has something where he knows he’s going to be employed, and how hard he works is how good his business will be. and he’s made so many great friends on the golf course."
Bonas said he chose golf apparel for his company for more than just his interest in the game.
"We were paying lots of money that clothes that were supposed to be comfortable," he said. "I have sensitive skin and those clothes weren’t comfortable. We decided to get my own so I could have my own clothing line so I could always be comfortable."
The clothing also has messages, for example, inside the waistline on pants, that say either "Lead the Way" or "Be Determined."
"You always want to stay positive on the golf course," Bonas said of the meaning of the messages. "It’s physical, but I think it’s mainly mental."
Carter Bonas’ drive impresses Ernie Els
The Els for Autism Foundation is in nearby Jupiter, but Els had heard of Bonas and his story on YouTube, and is more than impressed, not only for the accomplishment of a 10-year-old starting a business in and of itself, but what it could mean for others with autism.
"What he’s done, it’s just unbelievable," Els said. "He started a company at 10 years of age because he didn’t feel like he was fitting into our society. How incredible is that?"
Thursday as part of Bonas’ behind-the-scenes tour, Els took him through the fitness trailer that travels to stops on the PGA Tour Champions for each event. He also toured the Golf Channel compound, the SHOTLINK truck, the equipment trailer, and did the Conditioned Air Putting Challenge.
Later, he attended a clinic along with First Tee Champions Challenge participants on the driving range.
Els is hoping this isn’t his only encounter with Bonas and his parents. In April, Els’ facility will have a groundbreaking for an adult services building and has invited them to attend.
"Exactly what Carter has done himself we’re going to try to facilitate for our kids who have autism," Els said. "At the age of 21, the buck stops. You have to get back to normal society whether you’re comfortable or not.
"Carter has now shown what can be done in the autistic world. We’re going to create jobs, help kids get more comfortable with our way of life."
Two years ago, Carter Bonas had thoughts of taking his life. Now, at 10, he’s inspiring others to do what he’s already doing.
Els was speaking to Greg Hardwig, a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press.
Carter named his line of apparel “Spectrum Golf” and his vitamin water “Spectrum Vitamin Water” because he is considered high functioning on the Autism Spectrum Scale. Most recent Carter has followed in his mother’s footsteps and started his own 501c3 Non-Profit Carter’s Spectrum Golf “Cares” Corp. where he will be providing motivational speaking to schools and mentoring programs in addition to offering free golf lessons to youth.
Carter hosts a annual golf tournament to benefit the nonprofit Healing Arts Institute of South Florida, which was founded in his honour by his mother, Dr. Thelma Tennie licensed marriage and family therapist. The nonprofit offers No-Cost mental health services primarily to youth 22 and under and their families, across the State of Florida.
Carter began a whirlwind of media coverage after displaying his line of apparel at the PGA Show in Orlando and sharing his story, appearing on The Golf Channel, Golf Life TV, PGA magazine, Club and Result Business magazine, Europe Times News, Golf weekly and USAToday.com, Golf Central Magazine, City of Fort Lauderdale Chamber newsletter, and North Central Florida Golfer Magazine.
Carter was featured in a Spotlight Segment on, ESPN West Palm, ESPN Radio 106.3, WPTV-Channel 5 News, WSVN-Channel 7 News in Miami and 2 segments on NBC in West Palm Beach. From there it was onto the Chubb Classic in Naples, FL, where he received unprecedented access to Legendary Pro Golfer Ernie Els.
Media from all over the world watched as Carter walked the course with the Hall of Famer, while he was playing in the tournament. Els’s son is also autistic. Carter also had a chip competition with Pro Golfer Alex Cejka, losing by just a couple inches.
Carter is also a giver. Donating swag at the Chubb Classic with Jr. golfers from the organization First Tee, who then invited him to attend the Honda Classic.
Carter enjoys sharing his story and welcomes opportunities to speak to inspire others and conduct golfing demonstrations wherever he goes.
6 TIPS FOR INTERACTING POSITIVELY WITH CHILDREN ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM
As a parent you hope not only that your child will do well in class, but also that they'll get along well with others and fit in. But imagine if you were the parent of a child with a disability that may not be immediately recognisable. You'd want people to understand and be kind. It's important for parents to help their child understand there are children who are different than they are. Parents can teach their child some simple tools and tips for communicating with children with autism.