The PGA Tour has recently gotten into the habit of pairing up amateur golfers — often teenagers — with stars to play an entire hole together during a pro-am or a practice round before an event.
The pairing of Gary Woodland and Amy Bockerstette from Special Olympics Arizona (with a Matt Kuchar cameo) this week at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open is probably the best one yet. Amy and Gary met up on the famous par-3 16th at TPC Scottsdale, with Woodland inviting Amy to play the hole with him. After Amy meets Woodland, Kuchar and Kuchar’s caddie John Wood, the group walks up to the pro-am tee.
Woodland has been apprised Bockerstette has some game. She recently became the first collegiate golfer with an intellectual disability, like Down Syndrome, to compete on scholarship at that level at Paradise Valley Community College. She was the No. 3 player on her high school golf team in Arizona, and she was the first player with an intellectual disability to qualify for the Arizona state high school championship.
Amy puts on her shoes with her father’s help, and he lines her up with some final words of encouragement before she swings.
“You’ve got this, kiddo,” her dad says.
Amy puts a good swing on the ball, but her shot lands in the front-right greenside bunker. Undeterred, Amy enjoys basking in the friendly walk as the crowd around No. 16 is happy to greet her.
“They love me,” she says.
When the group gets to the green, Woodland asks Amy if she’d like to hit the bunker shot. She says she would, and Woodland loves the moxie. Propping herself up, saying, “You got this,” not only does Amy get the ball out of the bunker but close enough to have a real chance at the sandy par.
Woodland, Kuchar and Wood absolutely love it, and they all offer kudos and a high-five. Woodland then helps Amy with the read on the par putt and encourages her to drain it.
And then she does.
It’s a really special moment for Amy, Woodland, Kuchar and Wood. They’re all so impressed by how she made par and how she acquitted herself in a situation that makes a lot of people, including pros, uneasy. She was an absolute rock star.
When she gets off the green after hugs from Kuchar and Woodland, Amy gets a hug and a kiss from her mom.
There are a lot of things we see every day that are bad news, and it’s easy to forget there are also constant reminders of how many beautiful things are happening at the same time.