A person smiles and holds up a trophy that reads Ontario Disability Championship.

Natasha Stasiuk calls golf her “happy place.”

The Humber College Developmental Service Worker program student loves the game tremendously. Stasiuk, who is living with autism, says she doesn’t feel judged when on the course and enjoys the time she spends outdoors working on her game.  

Later this month, she will head to Berlin as part of Team Canada for the Special Olympics World Games. It runs from June 17 to June 25 and will have 7,000 athletes from 170 countries competing.

“I’m excited but I’m a little nervous because I want to do the best I can do,” said Stasiuk, who works at Golf Town in Mississauga. “I really like the Special Olympics because I feel included and I have lots of friends there.”

Stasiuk’s mother Sandra said getting to compete in golf at the World Games has been one of her daughter’s goals ever since the family travelled to Vancouver to take in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“We had such an amazing time and that feeling of being at an international sporting event was very inspiring for Natasha,” said Sandra.

Stasiuk was born in Russia before being adopted by her parents – Sandra and Peter – as an infant and brought to Canada. Early on, it was clear she had the makings of an athlete with above average hand-eye coordination.

She played a number of sports growing up, but golf was the one she had a natural aptitude for and enjoyed the most. The results on the links are there – she won all four of Golf Ontario’s Ontario Disability Women’s Championship tournaments between 2019 and 2022 and both of Golf Canada’s Canadian All Abilities Women’s Championship tournaments in 2021 and 2022. Last year, as the only Canadian woman golfer competing at the USGA’s inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open, Stasiuk finished fifth despite competing in an unfamiliar setting.

Earlier this year the Oakville resident was named the winner of the 8th annual Jeffrey Reed Courage Award. The award is presented by LondonOntarioSports.com and winners receive $1,000 plus a commemorative plaque and are provided a platform to share their story to inspire others.

“Natasha has won the hearts of the Canadian golf community thanks to her hard work and determination, her achievements – despite her disabilities – and her affectious personality,” said Jeffrey Reed, who established the award along with his wife Elizabeth in 2016. “Elizabeth and I are thrilled to honour Natasha with the 2023 Courage Award.”

A smiling person holds up a plaque with the name Natasha Stasiuk on it.

Receiving the award meant a great deal to her.

“It’s pretty meaningful to me that someone recognized that a person with a disability can do great things,” said Stasiuk.

Stasiuk wants to be a role model for other golfers with disabilities and said her goals for the World Games is to have fun, meet new people, play her best and make the country proud.