Amy Bockerstette’s viral moment reveals an invaluable lesson about golf—and life
The most engaged video ever on the PGA Tour’s Facebook page does not include Tiger Woods. Or Rory McIlroy. Or Jordan Spieth. Or even Ho-Sung Choi. It does not feature a PGA Tour player hitting a single shot.
No, its subject is a 20-year-old girl hitting a 6-hybrid from 117 yards into a bunker, and its three minutes dare you not to cry through your joy.
Viewed across multiple channels and platforms millions of times over the last 10 days, Amy Bockerstette’s par on the 16th hole during last Tuesday’s practice round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open was a revelation. Defending champion Gary Woodland was overwhelmed by playing partner Amy’s inspiring performance and impressive record, which includes two appearances in the Arizona state high school championship and an athletic scholarship to Paradise Valley Community College, all despite having Down Syndrome.
“I’ve had a lot of good memories in my life, but that’s one I’ll never forget,” Woodland said. “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.”
But viewed in another light, Bockerstette’s performance was more than another of the sweet vignette viral videos we’ve seen play out on SportsCenter Top 10s over the years. It was a master class in human possibility, a teachable moment in the power of positive thinking, a lesson on how flimsy assumptions and limits are in the face of self-belief. Her self-talk of “I got this” echoed Dad Joe’s gentle reminder of “You got this,” and she moved confidently, joyfully from tee shot to bunker shot to eight-foot par putt. It showed us how easily we sometimes overlook the obvious, that the game might not be as complicated as we make it.
For Amy, though, it was just fun.
As her father said, “People asked me if Amy gets nervous. My answer is, ‘Amy doesn’t get nervous. She gets excited.’
“She absolutely savored the moment.”
“People asked me if Amy gets nervous. My answer is, ‘Amy doesn’t get nervous. She gets excited.'”
Where many are uncomfortable on any stage, let alone the raucous coliseum that the TPC of Scottsdale’s 16th hole can be, Amy “wants to be a rock star,” said her teaching pro Matt Acuff.
“She has dreamt and thought of and pictured in her mind and imagined that type of stage. So to be there in front of that huge crowd, which would make just about anybody else buckle, that was her element. I can hear her saying, ‘They love me, they’re here to see me. And I know how to do this. I’ve hit this shot a whole bunch of times.’
“I know some of the guys struggling to make it out there can get a little nutty sometimes, a little head casey. They could learn some very valuable lessons from Amy as far as how not to do that.”
Of course, Bockerstette’s accomplishments, which also go beyond golf to dance class and theater and high school graduation speeches, are not by accident. She’s worked the last five years with Acuff to go from barely making contact to earning an athletic scholarship. It’s been a lot of positive talk, a lot of belief from those around her that’s become her belief, too. It is a gift that is the other side of Down Syndrome, something noted sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella has seen first-hand.