The inside story on how Amy watched Woodland’s win at Tesori family’s home
Written by Helen Ross for PGATour.com
Joe Bockerstette didn’t expect the weekend to unfold the way it did.
He and his wife Jenny and daughter Amy had just come to Florida’s First Coast to play a little golf, connect with a new friend and attend a dinner where he would receive Golfweek’s Father of the Year Award.
Bockerstette didn’t expect his daughter, who has Down syndrome, to become a viral star – for the second time in four months – as she watched her buddy Gary Woodland win the U.S. Open.
But she did.
The friendship first blossomed at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in late February when Amy played the raucous par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale with Woodland. She fearlessly got up and down for par from the bunker – now-famously telling herself “I got this” – and not only connected with a clearly delighted Woodland but also inspired millions of fans around the world.
One of those was Michelle Tesori, whose husband Paul caddies for Webb Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and ’18 PLAYERS Championship. The couple has a rambunctious 5-year-old son, Isaiah, who shares the extra chromosome that makes him so special, and she was drawn to the young woman who plays golf at Paradise Valley Community College.
So Tesori reached out to Jenny on Facebook on January 31. She told her who her husband was and that their son also had Down syndrome. She told them how impressed she was by Amy’s poise and confidence in front of that wildly cheering crowd.
“I was moved by whatever parenting it took to raise a young woman like that,” Tesori recalled. “I told her that Paul and I are like sponges. Since Isaiah has been born, anyone we’ve met that has an older child or an adult child with Down syndrome, we are asking them how’d you do it?”
Jenny replied immediately and the two continued their correspondence. When Joe was selected as the magazine’s Father of the Year, the two families decided they would finally meet and have dinner in Ponte Vedra on Sunday. During the final round of the U.S. Open, no less.
Now, Amy doesn’t watch a lot of golf – preferring to play with her college teammates – but once Woodland worked his way into the lead after the second round at Pebble Beach she was hooked. She tweeted “You’ve got this” to her new friend, and even made up a song to sing to him that Saturday when she played golf at Hammock Beach Resort.
“She was glued to the TV for two solid days, every shot,” Joe said.
Sunday morning, when Michelle was in church, she got a text from Jenny. She didn’t mean to be presumptuous, but could they get take-out instead of going out to dinner and watch the golf at Michelle’s house? Of course, Michelle said yes.
So, after a round of golf on the Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass, where Amy rolled in a 22-foot putt, among other adventures, the Bockerstettes and Tesoris finally met. They plunked down on the sectional sofa in front of the TV and bonded over take-out from a local Mexican restaurant.
“It was so much more fun that way,” Joe said. “Otherwise, we could have easily had been in a hotel, you know, holed up by ourselves. And as it turned out, Amy ended up being part of the story.”
And fast. Michelle tweeted a photo of Amy and her and almost immediately got a message from the TOUR asking her to document the reaction should Gary win.
“She probably said a hundred times yesterday, I love him, and every time he hit the ball, everyone had to be quiet,” Michelle said. “And we talked through what it’s like if you don’t want someone else to win. We talked through some very life moments when we were watching golf.
“And I got to spend the night with this incredible young woman and her amazing parents at my house.”
The jubilant reaction that went viral was as much for the improbable birdie putt at the 72nd hole that put an exclamation point on Woodland’s first major championship as for the win itself.
“It was as spontaneous a reaction that you are ever going to get,” Michelle said. “It was not planned. We were as surprised as he was that the putt went in the hole. So, we then celebrated as a little extended family.”
Soon, Michelle got a text from the TOUR saying that Woodland was planning to FaceTime Amy after his press conference was over. The adults didn’t tell Amy, but they practiced so she would feel comfortable – catching Paul in the airport and calling LPGA star Jessica Korda, who is a friend of both families, as well. They also made a video and sent it to Dottie Pepper.
The group was watching Woodland’s press conference – which was tape-delayed — on TV when Woodland’s call came. Another viral moment, not unlike the one at Phoenix, which has been viewed more than 5 million times, ensued as the two talked about his win.
“I told somebody else it’s like these two are now indelibly linked through this two-and-a-half-minute video and then Gary subsequently winning the U.S. Open,” Joe said. “You know, closing the way he did and the mental toughness he showed, and you know, him telling her, he said ‘I got this’ a million times on Sunday.’
“It was like the coolest thing ever.”
The next 24 hours were a blur. The Bockerstettes and Tesoris had breakfast at PGA TOUR headquarters where Amy met Commissioner Jay Monahan and signed autographs and posed for pictures with the staff, Then it was off to New York City for an appearance on the “Today” show where Amy and Joe were interviewed by Savannah Guthrie, Craig Melvin, Al Roker and Carson Daly.
“And she’s a fan girl of Carson from ‘The Voice,’ so that was fun,” Joe said. “They chit-chatted a bit beforehand.”
The best part, though, was when Woodland walked onto the set, holding the U.S. Open trophy, and settled down on the couch next to the young woman he said had inspired him.
“We won that together,” Woodland told Amy as he handed her the big silver loving cup. Yet, another viral moment in an unforgettable weekend full of them.
“The whole trip was just fantastic,” Joe said. “And when we left on Friday, we had no idea it was going to morph into what it morphed into. In our mind, that moment had passed. It’s now been three, four, five months since the Phoenix Open.
“She’s still doing some golf outings and things related to it, but we figured in general the story was over. And … then boom, then he started leading and then won. It’s like a whole thing. It’s starting over again, right?”
By Monday evening, Jenny and Amy were back home in Phoenix. Joe, who has a consulting firm, had clients to see and was to join them later this week. He says he doesn’t think his daughter, who is busy with piano lessons, dance classes and vocational training, as well as playing in various celebrity tournaments, would have trouble settling back into a more normal life.
“She, of course, will high-five and take a picture with anybody, but you know, she still sees herself as kind of like here’s the devoted follower to the other girls,” Joe said. “So, to her it won’t make a bit of difference.
“She’ll go back to loving her teammates and, and even trying to steal their boyfriends and all that.”
Amy is also going to be the keynote speaker at the annual convention of the National Down Syndrome Congress later this month. “She’s actually a pretty good public speaker,” Joe says with pride.
Both Joe and Jenny are active in the Down syndrome community, and Amy’s story has afforded increased opportunity to advocate for people with disabilities. Although Joe jokes “We’re on the Amy Tour right now,” he knows that visibility is important – particularly to someone like Michelle, who sees her son in Amy 15 years down the road.
“The reach-out to Amy’s mom was mom-to-mom, it was not golf-to-golf,” she said. “It was mom-to-mom and watching this young woman who was so incredibly composed, confident but not cocky, comfortable in her skin.
“I can see my child all day long in front of a crowd like that. That is where Isaiah lives and breathes. I can hear my child right now in front of a crowd going, ‘They love me.’ That’s Isaiah. Hey guys. Everyone’s looking at me. That is the child I am raising.”
Michelle says the pastor at her church often says the thing that drives mankind is the question: Am I good enough? Am I a good enough father or mother? A good enough friend? A good enough boss or employee? She knows the answer, at least as far as Isaiah is concerned.
“A couple months ago — it was probably a Sunday night, I would imagine because it was fresh on my mind — we were laying in bed and I turned to Paul and I said, ‘you know, what’s the coolest thing maybe about our kid?” Michelle recalled. “I suspect he will never, ever wonder if he’s good enough. That’s just not in his DNA. He will have a million struggles other people don’t have, but I don’t think our kid is ever going to wonder am I good enough? Because I don’t think he cares.
“And there is an incredible gift in in that and I see that in Amy. I see it in her and I saw it in that clip and I just wanted to be in her mom’s face and say, hey listen, you did a great job, mom, high five. … Amy’s an incredible human being. She is determined. She is focused. She is stubborn.
“She has all the incredible things that will make her a powerhouse in this life.”