WHEN Gary Woodland flew to New York the day after winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach this past Father’s Day, he was accompanied by Craig Annis, one of the USGA’s communications executives. Annis’ job was to shepherd Woodland through a busy tour—mostly to non-sports outlets, many of whom wanted to focus on Amy Bockerstette, the young woman with Down syndrome who had become a social-media sensation and part of Woodland’s life in January. Most of the golf world knew the story already. Woodland, as the defending champion at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, had been asked to play a hole with Bockerstette during a Tuesday practice round. The idea had come from Special Olympics Scottsdale, which wanted to promote the story of a local athlete who had overcome great challenges to succeed.
Bockerstette was 20 and a freshman at Paradise Valley Community College, where she had received a scholarship to play on the golf team. After the PGA Tour gave Woodland the history of Bockerstette’s journey, he was more than willing to take part.
“I thought it would be fun,” he says. “I had no idea it would be a life-changing event for me.”
With thousands of fans surrounding the circus tent that is the TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole, Woodland and his buddy Matt Kuchar teed it up with Bockerstette. She hit a solid tee shot that drifted right into a greenside bunker.
“You could see right away that she