Bailey Bish leads Women's Overall Division by four shots
For photos of the 5th United States Disabled Open, click here
By CRAIG DOLCH
Special to PGA of America
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (May 8, 2023) – There were lower scores shot and longer putts made Monday, but nobody had a better time at the 5th United States Disabled Open at PGA Golf Club than Amy Bockerstette.
You remember Amy.
She’s the young woman with Down syndrome who burst on the golf scene at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, when during a practice round she made a par on the iconic 16th hole playing alongside Gary Woodland.
Bockerstette hit her tee shot into a bunker, splashed it out to 8 feet and made the putt to receive cheers from the large gallery and Woodland. The heart-warming video has been watched more than 50 million times.
Her catchphrase became “You got this,” a motto that inspired Woodland to win the U.S. Open later that year at Pebble Beach. The day after the U.S. Open victory, Woodland surprised Bockerstette by appearing on the Today Show with her.
A star was born. And she deservedly received more than 15 minutes of fame.
More than four years later, the 25-year-old Bockerstette was her typical upbeat self Monday. Especially when she almost made a hole-in-one on No. 7 on the Ryder Course at PGA Golf Club with a 5-hybrid
She responded by waving and blowing kisses to her playing partners.
“That was a lot of fun,” Amy said. “I’ve never had a one-in-one, but that was close. It was exciting.”
Chad Pfeiffer, whose leg was blown off by an IED explosion in 2007, when he was an Army paratrooper in Iraq, is tied for the overall lead with Eliseo Villanueva after even-par 71s. Tied for second with 73s are Jeremy Bittner, one of the U.S.’s top-ranked disabled players after losing part of his right leg when he was 4, and Evan Mathias.
Five-time PGA Tour winner Ken Green, who lost part of his right leg in an RV accident, had a 77 and World Golf Hall of Famer and Honorary PGA of America member Dennis Walters a 78 in the Seated Division.
Bailey Bish leads Kelsey Koch by four shots in the Women's Overall Division. Bockerstette is 14 shots off the lead.
There are 15 divisions covering physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities.
Bockerstette never let a bad shot ruin her mood. She ended the round on an upbeat note when she made an 8-footer after getting up-and-down from a greenside bunker at No. 18.
“I just love to play golf,” she said.
And people love to watch her play, especially that par at one of the most famous par-3s in the sport. It’s not often what happens on a Wednesday on the PGA Tour becomes so memorable.
“Those 2 ½ minutes changed our lives,” said Amy’s dad, Joe, who was selected Golfweek’s 2019 Father of the Year. “So many people have reached out to tell us how that video has touched their lives.”
Amy and her family have done more than touch lives. They are impacting them, thanks to the I Got This charity they started on Amy’s 21st birthday.
Joe Bockerstette said the charity had raised more than $350,000 with a goal “that golf reflects the diversity of society in its inclusion of athletes with intellectual disabilities.”
Amy has been interviewing for jobs, but she stays busy playing golf and working for the foundation.
“We want to see more of Amy’s friends playing golf,” her father said. “In this tournament, we’d like to see more people with intellectual disabilities. Everywhere Amy goes, she’s kind of the first to be doing these things.”
Amy already made history when she became the first person with Down syndrome to receive an athletic scholarship to attend Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix.
She has maintained a friendship with Woodland, who lives an hour south of PGA Golf Club. They text each other on their birthdays and remain in contact. Even now, Woodland will hear screams of “You Got This” from fans in the gallery.
“We had a special day in Phoenix together and it blossomed from there,” Woodland said recently. “The world needs a lot more Amys in it. Her attitude, her energy is so contagious.
“It’s her love for life. Life is not always bells and whistles. It’s not always going to be great. The only thing you can control is your attitude and she controls her attitude better than anyone.”
The 54-hole event runs Monday through Wednesday at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The United States Disabled Open Championship is conducted by the US Disabled Golf Association with the PGA of America serving as Presenting Partner of the Championship.
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