By Anthony Richards, Ponte Vedra Recorder
For seven years now the Tesori Family Foundation has held an all-star kids clinic at TPC Sawgrass with the latest one taking place Oct. 12.
An emotional moment was shared as Chris Nikic served as a guest speaker at the clinic just days after being the first person with Down syndrome to complete the Kona Ironman World Championship, regarded as one of the toughest and most prestigious triathlons in the world.
According to Paul Tesori, Nikic being there and sharing his story with the attendees was probably the most important part of the whole day, because it shows what they can accomplish no matter what they may be faced with.
“To be able to do what he did with Down syndrome, I almost can’t even fathom how he was able to do that,” Tesori said.
The clinics themselves have been going on for nine years total at various locations in the U.S. The goal of the clinics is to present a community event where families with children with special needs can gather and have fun through the game of golf.
“I think surreal is the right word because it goes by kind of fast,” Tesori said. “A day like today has been really emotional for me because you can’t help but look back.”
One of the main messages both Nikic and Tesori shared during the event was that God has a purpose for everyone in life.
“When COVID hit we had more than 20 (clinics) scheduled, and we’re back to like five now,” Tesori said. “That part was hard to go through, because we really thought it was ready to take off, but then to look today and have full participation and a full docket of kids is awesome.”
PGA Tour golfer Billy Horschel was also on hand after getting a text from Paul Tesori asking if he could make an appearance at the event.
“He literally texted me this morning,” Horschel chuckled. “I’ve known Paul for a while now, and I was part of the second one they ever had up in Greensboro, North Carolina, years ago. It’s special just to see kids getting involved. It doesn’t matter what skill level or what their goal is, to see it put a smile on their face is what’s so great about the game of golf.”
Horschel has younger children himself, which allowed him to put the event into even more perspective, because he knows what it means to be a parent and to want to be there for your children no matter what.
“I remember when Michelle was pregnant and when Isaiah was born and hearing the news that he had Down syndrome,” Horschel said. “To see how they’ve dealt with it and what their mission was right after he was born. Kids bring so much joy to life with the innocence that they have.”
The clinic participants took their turn at various stations practicing and having fun putting, chipping and driving.
“To see kids out here smoking it, and hit 100-yard drives is incredible,” Horschel said. “It puts a smile on my face, so I definitely know it puts one on theirs as well.”
The support of partners within the community is important for the foundation, and it is something Tesori has never taken for granted.
“Just look at what THE PLAYERS has allowed us to do, we’re at the (TPC Sawgrass) Stadium Course right now and basically have enough space for a par-3 course,” Tesori said. “It’s amazing the amount that they have allowed us to take over.”