‘The kids give us so much joy’: Tesori event for children continues to thrive

From News4JAX

It’s all about the kids. And Paul Tesori may have been the biggest one of them out there on Wednesday afternoon.

The longtime PGA Tour caddie and his wife, Michelle, are scrambling all around The Yards, answering questions, giving high fives and hugs, just as excited as the kids that they’ve planned this event for.

On the eve of The Players Championship, the Tesori’s and dozens of children and their families descend on The Yards at TPC Sawgrass for a fun-filled afternoon of golf. It’s not actually about pars and birdies, but something far more important.

Fun. Inclusion. Excitement.

It’s just for a couple of hours on one afternoon, but Paul and Michelle wait the whole year for this day. It’s the 45th event that the family has put on around the country, and the ninth time that they’ve held it at TPC Sawgrass right before The Players.

“It’s one of those things that every single year we look so forward to doing this. The kids give us so much joy. Out at the golf course this week you’re going to see some angry golfers, you’ll see a few excited golfers and this is a nice reset for us,” Paul said. “The game of golf gets way too important in our little world that we live in and when you get a little bit of a moment to see these kids and the joy they have, the excitement they have.”

Paul and Michelle’s foundation puts on the event and it’s difficult to tell who is more excited about the day, its organizers or the participants.

If children leave with smiles on their faces, its mission accomplished for the Tesori’s.

Paul, who played golf at St. Augustine High School and graduated in 1990, went on to play both in junior college and at the University of Florida. When a professional golf career didn’t pan out, Tesori made a pivot. He started working as a caddie and spent time on the bag with names like Vijay Singh, Sean O’Hair and Webb Simpson.

But a greater mission in life came with the creation of the Tesori Family Foundation in 2009, which they started with somewhat of a broad focus to help give back to the community. When Paul and Michelle had their son, Isaiah in 2014, the mission of the foundation shifted. Initially created to help those in need across northeast Florida, the Tesori family pivoted when Isaiah was found to have Down syndrome. The foundation’s message of help took on a more defined focus.

“Very quickly, we had one of our friends who said ‘y’all need to do a clinic for kids with special needs,’” Paul said. “Her and I looked at each other and I’m like ‘yes.’ Then I looked to the brains of the operation, to her, and was like ‘how are we going to pull that off?’ Very quickly we came up with a game plan.”

They set up clinics at PGA Tour stops across the country, inviting golfers out to help with the events and work with children who had special needs. Over the years, numerous golfers made it out to the golf clinics, notably Jordan Spieth, whose sister Ellie has a rare neurological condition. While Tesori no longer caddies for Simpson, he’s still a common sight at the foundation’s events.

“Doing these clinics all around the country at tour stops and beyond,” Simpson said. “It gives these awesome kids an opportunity to come out and have fun, enjoy the game, and honestly for a professional golfer all I do is work around golf so this is fun to see kids just having fun.”