Yesterday, Gary Woodland won the U.S. Open golf championship, his first major tournament win of the Big Four. The announcers were saying as the victory neared that it would be a popular win because Woodland was such a well-liked player on the tour.
But now let's go back a few months to late January. That's when Woodland was playing a practice round at the Phoenix Open. He was introduced to Amy Bockerstette, a Special Olympics golfer, and invited her to hit a tee shot at the challenging Tournament Players Championship course -- on the controversial 16th hole. (The par-3 16th is infamous because it's entirely enclosed by stands, almost more of a stadium-setting, filled with fans all around, like being in in a fish bowl, unlike any other hole on the PGA Tour that are far-more pastoral.) .. After that shot, the group went on walking together down the fairway...but as they approached her ball, Woodland felt that one shot wasn't enough and asked if she wanted to keep playing the full hole.
What resulted between Woodland and Amy -- who the year before became the first person with Down Syndrome to compete in college -- turned into what the PGA says is the most-viral video they've ever posted, with over 5 million views. That's before this week's U.S. Open. I have no doubt the viewership went way up -- particularly after the featured it during the TV broadcast.
After the event -- and yes, that was an official par she got on the hole -- Woodland said about it, “I’ve had a lot of good memories in my life, but that’s one I’ll never forget. I’ve been blessed to do lot of cool things on the golf course but that is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced. She was phenomenal. And then to step up in front of all the people and the crowd and everything and to hit the shots that she hit and made par, I never rooted so hard for somebody on a golf course and it was an emotional, emotional really cool experience.”
I should note that there is a whole lot more one can say about Woodland, but we'll keep it short. Two years ago, he and his wife were expecting twins, but only one survived. He called it the toughest year years of his life. It must be noted that his wife was not present for his win on Sunday -- Fathers Day -- that's because they're expecting twin girls.
The story of Gary and Amy doesn't end there, mind you. Here's a new video released on Sunday by the PGA of Amy and her family and friends as they watch Woodland make his last putt to win the championship. Along with a follow-up after that.
That's Amy Bockerstette. And Gary Woodland -- the new U.S. Open champion.
And I hope that was worth your time, even if you can't stand golf.