Speaking Up For Those Who Cannot Hear

In her sophomore year as a Longhorn at the University of Texas, Folsom, California native Emilee Hoffman learned that her degree in sociology required that she take a second language. Many student-athletes would have slid through Spanish, French, or learned just enough Italian to order a good vino. But Hoffman went another direction, one she felt drawn to, and one that moved her spirit. She chose to learn American Sign Language (ASL).


Now, the “Road to the LPGA” rookie is spreading awareness for a community that is close to hear heart.

“Knowing a second language is very important to me because it has helped me understand the world from a completely different perspective. I have had many college golf teammates in the past who are from all over the world who spoke multiple languages,” said Hoffman. “Sometimes they would struggle to think of the right word they wanted to use, or to phrase the word the correct way. I now completely understand what they are going through because using multiple languages can be very difficult.”

Now three years after Hoffman chose to learn ASL, she looks back at all the doors and conversations it has opened beyond signing with her teacher as an undergrad. Since the day she started learning the language, Hoffman has made friends who continue to educate her on the struggles the hearing impaired have overcome.

“Our friendship means so much to me,” said Tatum Wiechman, Hoffman’s friend from University of Texas whose first language is ASL. “We hit it off the moment we were assigned to do a project together in class and we’ve stuck together since then. We’ve supported each other through everything, and I am just so proud of Emilee for becoming a professional golfer. I am also glad that Emilee decided to utilize her platform to highlight Deaf Awareness Week because she could have easily not done anything. Instead, she did the harder thing and asked to collaborate together on how we are promoting Deaf Awareness Week on our social media accounts.”

“I want the world to understand that deaf or hard-of-hearing people don't usually view deafness as a disability. More often than not, people view deaf/hard-of-hearing people as not being equal to hearing individuals which is not true,” said Hoffman, recounting one of the biggest lessons she learned. “I’m hoping that by using my platform to promote deaf voices through educating and helping people understand the Deaf community more, we will be able to help make these negative stereotypes that we see today disappear.”

Emilee Hoffman

September 23, 2020

Recognizing there is a world of people, athletes, artists and more who are deaf, has inspired Hoffman. One person in particular stood out, Nyle Dimarco, the first deaf contestant on America’s Next Top Model who won the televised competition in 2015, as well as, won the 2016 season of Dancing With the Stars.

“This was so inspiring to me and I hope that it inspired others as well,” Hoffman said. “I think he shows people that just because someone has hearing loss doesn't mean they can't be extraordinary. There are many misconceptions about deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals that are simply not true. My main goal is to spread awareness and address the misconceptions during Deaf Awareness Week and help educate people on the Deaf culture and the Deaf community.”

Hoffman, a former two-time All-Big-12 team selection who also played in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, hopes you will join her in Deaf Awareness Week by educating yourself and others on American Sign Language and more. Both she and Wiechman are using their social media platforms to share different ways you can learn ASL and show support for deaf companies and content creators. From adding subtitles to any video with audio to learning a few words, any step forward is a step in the right direction.

“ASL has taught me so much about Deaf culture and the Deaf community. I’ve learned so much over the past three years and I know that I will continue to grow and learn in the future. ASL has provided me with lifelong friendships and introduced me to a world that I didn't know existed before I took ASL courses in college. I feel so thankful for ASL because it has truly changed my life.”

Great Places to Learn ASL

“My advice is to learn from a native (in the context of someone whose first language is ASL) signer or deaf-lead ASL programs because that is where you’ll get the richest and most authentic learning experience. Great places to learn ASL are through Gallaudet’s ASL Connect and through various deaf content creators on social media,” said Wiechman.

Finishing T92 Stage II of the 2019 LPGA Qualifying Tournament, Hoffman first earned Epson Tour membership as a 2020 rookie. So far this year, she has had four starts with a season-best tie for 11th at the inaugural Founders Tribute at Longbow Golf Club and two top-50 finishes at the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa and the Firekeepers Casino Hotel Championship.