BOB WEST ON GOLF — Amy Bockerstette authored indelible feel-good moment

Published 12:09 am Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Golf Digest, in a year-in-review-type piece, recently documented its “18 Feel Good Moments” of 2019. High on the list was the heartwarming story of Amy Bockerstette, a 21-year-old Special Olympian with Down Syndrome whose path crossed mine last June in Palm Coast, Florida.

Amy won’t remember me but I will never forget her. Reading about all that has happened in her life since then is a story worth updating from its first mention in this space three days after Gary Woodland won the U.S. Open on Father’s Day weekend.

Bockerstette had become an overnight social media star back in February after being selected to play TPC Scottsdale’s infamous par 3, 16th hole with Woodland during a practice round for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. In the span of 15 minutes, she became his ongoing inspiration.

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Most of you have probably seen the video but for those who haven’t here’s a quick recap.

Amy, who was on the golf team at a nearby community college, drove into the bunker on the 145-yard hole surrounded by grandstands that seat over 50,000. Woodland, who had just met her and had no idea of her skill level, didn’t want her to be embarrassed trying to hit out of the sand. He offered to retrieve her ball.

“No, I got this,” she told him in no uncertain terms. Then she walked down into the fairly deep bunker, chipped up to about 12 feet and made the putt. The roar from the gallery was deafening. Woodland was totally blown away.

“I’ve had a lot of good memories in my life, but that’s one I’ll never forget,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to do a lot of cool things on the golf course, but that is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Fast forward to June 16. It’s the third day of the U.S. Open and the first day of Golfweek’s annual Father-Son tournament in Palm Harbor. My youngest son, Grayson, and I rode out to our starting point at the sixth hole, looked up and lo-and-behold there’s Amy with her parents. They were also teeing off on six.

Joe Bockerstette, Amy’s dad, had been chosen for Golfweek’s Father of the Year Award. We chatted a bit before teeing off, then were later enthralled at the post-round banquet when Amy got up and talked about Joe. Meanwhile, she was sweating out her new best friend Gary thousands of miles away at Pebble Beach.

Woodland, of course, would go on to gut out his first major championship, then quickly pay tribute to Amy in his post-round press conference.

“I thought of Amy saying, ‘I got this, I got this.’ he declared. “I told myself that a million times today.” Later, in a Face Time phone call, he told her, “I used your positive energy. You were awesome.”

Since then, Amy has become quite the celebrity, traveling the country as a spokesperson for Special Olympics, being the keynote speaker at the National Down Syndrome Congress Annual Convention and even throwing out a first pitch at an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game.

On her 21st birthday, Bockerstette and her family launched the “I Got This” Foundation, with a mission to promote golf instruction and playing opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

And the hits just keep on coming. The viral video of her and Woodland and the amazing par she made in Phoenix is now up to 43 million hits. If you have not seen it, please Google Amy Bockerstette Gary Woodland.

It will leave a smile on your face and instant understanding of why Golf Digest considered it one of the “18 Feel Good Moments” of this year. Or any year.


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