Lawrence Blume could feel the pressure during the 2012 Golf National Invitational Tournament in Arizona last September.
“When you tee off, there’s a gallery of people watching you,” says Blume, 32, a fourth-year PhD candidate in Physiology & Pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “It could be anywhere from five to 20 people continuously following you around the course.”
Blume wasn’t even the object of the gallery’s affection. Rather, it was his playing partner, Matthew Smitherman, a 23-year-old Special Olympian from Stokes County, and the other Special Olympians they faced head to head over the three days at The Wigwam resort in Litchfield Park, Ariz.
Blume was invited to join Smitherman, who was competing in the 9-hole, alternative shot category; Smitherman won a gold medal last year in the Special Olympics North Carolina State Games and was selected to compete at nationals.
Smitherman’s mother, Deana, says the event was special, and so was Blume.
“Out on the golf course, he would give Matthew pointers,” she says. “When Matthew messed up, he didn’t get upset. You couldn’t have asked for someone to do a better job than what he did.”
Blume has been one of the golf instructors for Special Olympics Forsyth County (Stokes County’s Special Olympics program does not offer golf) since he arrived at the School of Medicine, having begun volunteering two years prior to that in Pittsburgh, where he lived after graduating from Duquesne University.
“It’s kind of my way to give back to the community,” says Blume, whose work at Wake Forest Biotech Place focuses on better understanding drug addiction in hopes of identifying and developing new ways of treatment for this group of drugs. When he finishes his PhD, he hopes to go into either business development, medical affairs or working for venture capital firms to help them assess the technology of innovation.