McCrabb: Butler County golfer ‘pulled it together,’ three-peats as Special Olympian gold medalist

Matt O'Bryan, 18, a senior at Fairfield High School, recently won his third gold medal in golf in the Special Olympics. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Matt O'Bryan, 18, a senior at Fairfield High School, recently won his third gold medal in golf in the Special Olympics. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Fairfield High School senior, his partner shoot 38 on nine holes, take third state title.

Matt O’Bryan is a young man with an intellectual disability, so while some of his buddies were playing sports, he sat on the sidelines.

Then he was introduced to Special Olympics, and his life changed and the world became a more welcoming place. When you meet the senior at Fairfield High School, you’ll be greeted with a firm handshake, every question will end with “yes sir,” and you’ll walk away feeling better about yourself.

O’Bryan, 18, serves as student manager for his high school football team, is considered the “hype man” for the student section at football games and has a desire to win every golf tournament.

ExploreMcCrabb: Inspired by former Butler County educator, man walks 21.5 miles to Reds game

Playing with Jeremiah Washmuth in the Special Olympics state tournament last month, they shot 38 playing alternate shot on the Mill Course at Winton Woods, capturing their third consecutive gold medal. Golf is a unified event where people with and without intellectual disabilities compete together on the same team.

Libraries of books have been written. Instructional videos have been shot, and years of lessons have been given on how to play golf better. O’Bryan simplifies the game. The keys, he said, are using smart strategy, swinging good and “getting down to business.”

O’Bryan and Washmuth won the silver medal at the regional tournament and O’Bryan’s mother, Andrea, said he was practicing poorly on the driving range before the nine-hole tournament.

“It was not going well,” she said. “I knew he’d be upset, but he pulled it together. He’s competitive and he likes to win.”

He also likes being part of the Fairfield football family.

“He’s great to have around,” said FHS coach Jason Krause. “He’s one of our family. No matter what kind of day I’m having, Matt puts a smile on my face.”

As Krause returned to practice, O’Bryan turned and smiled. “I’m the coach,” he said.

He doesn’t lack confidence. That wasn’t always the case, his mother said.

“He struggled when it came to a big group,” she said. “But he has come out of his shell.”

When O’Bryan was born, his mother said he was “a little slow” developing. He suffered from a fever syndrome that shot his temperature dangerously high every few weeks. He also lacked muscle tone.

“Didn’t meet any of his milestones,” his mother said. “He wasn’t thriving.”

He was diagnosed with an intellectual disability because the fevers “burned up his brain,” his mother said.

For years, he was treated by the occupational and physical therapists in the Fairfield school district.

Andrea, 52, and her husband, Michael O’Bryan, 59, have three older children, two sons and a daughter. Now that Matt is about to graduate, his mother said it’s “kind of frightening” having a child with special needs.

“With the other three children, we knew what to expect with them, how they would achieve their goals,” she said. “You don’t know what the future holds for him. He wants to succeed and that’s half the battle. He’s a very caring person. He worries about everybody. He wants to go out and do his best.”

For the last three years, he’s done just that. He has the gold medals as proof.

Matt O'Bryan, 18, a senior at Fairfield High School, recently won his third gold medal in golf in the Special Olympics. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Matt O'Bryan, 18, a senior at Fairfield High School, recently won his third gold medal in golf in the Special Olympics. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Matt O'Bryan, 18, a senior at Fairfield High School, recently won his third gold medal in golf in the Special Olympics. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Matt O'Bryan, 18, a senior at Fairfield High School, recently won his third gold medal in golf in the Special Olympics. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

About the Author