Several weeks ago my husband and I watched several rounds of play at the Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale, a golf tournament sponsored by Waste Management. The actual tournament play was interesting, but it was the practice round a day earlier that truly caught our attention and won our hearts.
In the practice round, focus was on Gary Woodland, reigning TPC champion, along with pro-golfer Matt Kuchar, who were about to play the 16th hole of the course with Amy Bockerstette. The event was a surprise for Amy, a freshman in college.
Bockerstette, a recent high school graduate, had the know-how to play golf with the pros as she is attending college on a golf athletics scholarship.
During her junior year in high school, Amy successfully competed in state high school playoffs. Media reports note she played in every match except one and throughout the season, she consistently qualified for third position on the team. Her average score for the season was 48, and her all time best, 46. In Arizona, she was ranked 77th among the 90 golf enthusiasts who qualified for state.
While playing on the high school golf team, Amy and her team mates achieved several titles as they won the Deer Valley District Cup, and Eagle Invitation.
Because of her accomplishments on the team, Amy received a full-ride scholarship to a local community college she now attends, but today, on this special day, she was to play the 16th hole with professional golfers, in front of a large crowd of spectators.
And, with confidence and self assuredness, Amy shot par.
However, her first shot off the tee box landed in a bunker. When asked if Woodland should help her out, she said “No, I’ve got this. I can do this.”
And she did. With a smile.
As my husband and I watched Amy’s special golfing event on television, it was heartwarming to see her succeed. We found ourselves cheering her on with anxiety, as we not only wanted her to do well, but we wanted her to make it. To sink the ball in the hole.
To finish the par 3 16th-hole, Amy made an amazing 8-foot putt that any golfer would be proud to claim, and amazingly, throughout play, she appeared calm and at ease with each shot.
The wonderful, awe-inspiring part of this story I haven’t shared is that Amy was born with Down Syndrome.
She is the first person with Down Syndrome to be offered an athletic scholarship to college.
She is also the first Arizona student with Down Syndrome to make the state high school playoffs in golf.
Additionally, Amy is likely the first Down Syndrome youth to be surprised by the PGA Tour and Special Olympics and a chance to play the TPC Scottsdale course during a notable, well-attended championship tournament –– however, the surprise is on all of us, not Amy.
Amy played an outstanding 16th hole, and every step of the way, she handled each golf shot with grace and confidence. No hesitations or excuses. She faced her sand trap shot and the 8-ft. putt with a matter of fact approach stating, “I’ve got this. I can do this.”
And she certainly did.
With a big smile.
That self confident response tells us a lot about Amy’s inner strength and focus, and why this young golfer with Down Syndrome has accomplished so very much.
It was indeed a pleasure to watch her play.
For those interested in viewing Amy’s golfing feat, the PGA video is on YouTube, it is entitled Gary Woodland Surprises Amy. It is definitely worth watching.