Sport US Open

Tuesday 15 October 2019

WATCH: Gary Woodland's poignant call to golfer with Down Syndrome who inspired him to US Open success

Gary Woodland posses with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Sunday, June 16, 2019, in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Gary Woodland posses with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Sunday, June 16, 2019, in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phil Casey

Of all the messages Gary Woodland received as he tried to secure a first major title in the US Open, one would have resonated more than most.

"You've got this," a young woman by the name of Amy Bockerstette wrote in a message to Woodland on Twitter, echoing the phrase she had used to calm her nerves before a special moment the pair shared in January.

Bockerstette, 20, who has Down Syndrome, was invited to take a shot alongside Woodland in a practice round ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where Woodland was the defending champion.

Understandably nervous at playing in front of a sizeable crowd on the famous, and raucous, par-three 16th, Bockerstette gave herself a little pep talk - "I got this" - before hitting a hybrid club into a greenside bunker.

Accepting an impressed Woodland's invitation to finish the hole, Bockerstette then played an excellent bunker shot and holed the putt for par to the delight of the fans and Woodland in particular, who had gone from polite host to amazed admirer in a matter of minutes.

Woodland already had a reputation for being one of the good guys on the PGA Tour, a reputation burnished by the genuine joy he showed that day in Phoenix.

The 35-year-old from Topeka, Kansas later told the Palm Beach Post, the paper near his new home in Florida: "It was just so cool and special at the time. I've learned so much from her on a positive level and how to live my life from an emotional standpoint.

"The positive energy she gives herself was contagious because I was as excited as I've ever been on a golf course. I've had grown men come up to me crying and talking about it. I've never had anything like that in my life."

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Woodland's own life has been touched by tragedy after he and his wife Gabby lost one of the twins she was expecting in a miscarriage.

Woodland withdrew from the WGC-Dell Match Play event ahead of a scheduled match with Rory McIlroy in March 2017, initially announcing it was due to a "personal family matter."

The following week he explained that, following complications, "Gabby and I have since had to cope with the heartbreaking loss of one of the babies, and our doctors will be closely monitoring the health of my wife and other baby for the remainder of the pregnancy."

There was thankfully a happy end to the story as the couple welcomed their son Jaxson to the world two months later, weighing just three pounds.

It was 40 days before Jaxson was allowed home from the hospital but he now appears to be fully healthy and his proud father has inundated his Instagram account with photos, including one from the par-three contest ahead of this year's Masters.

By the time of next year's Masters Woodland will hopefully be the proud father of three children following the news that Gabby is expecting twin girls, due in August.

And he will always have the memory of winning his first major title, the US Open at Pebble Beach, on Father's Day.

PA Media

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