Golf is known as a sport that transcends stereotypes and boundaries like gender, age and athleticism, and rarely do we find a better example of that than this news story out of Phoenix, Ariz.
AZcentral.com’s Richard Obert visited with high school junior Amy Bockerstette, who, along with her Sandra Day O’Connor High School teammates, has qualified to play in a state tournament this week.
From the article:
“[Amy’s] swing coach, local pro Matt Acuff, who works with some of the top local juniors, will be on her bag and in her head as he steers her through the biggest tournament of her life, a journey that nobody but Bockerstette, her coach/caddie and those closest around her ever thought possible. ‘It’s awesome,’ she said.
O’Connor golf coach Steve Casey said that Bockerstette has been his team’s No. 4 or 5 golfer all season. ‘She beats people,’ Casey said. ‘I know the first time I saw her hit it off the tee box, I was like, ‘Wow.’ I was pretty amazed. She probably hits it about 180 yards. She hits it straight. She doesn’t make too many mistakes. When she gets in trouble, like in the bunker, where you have to have finesse, it gets to her. But Matt [her caddie] is there with her walking the course. He gets in her head, keeps her on track.’ Jenny Bockerstette, Amy’s mom, said it is a challenge for children with Down syndrome to build muscle tone and strength and it can be tough walking two to three miles for nine holes, about six miles for 18 holes. But Amy presses on and plays with passion and intense focus.”
Amy ended up on the golf team after her parents noticed that she had a talent for the game when she played in a couple of charity golf events. Bert continues:
“There were no cuts at Sandra Day O’Connor. After her freshman year, Bockerstette worked as many as five times a week with Acuff on her game. Before her sophomore year, the goal was to play in one varsity match by the time she was a senior. She competed in the Juniors Golfers program at the Futures Course at the 500 Club in Glendale. A Ryder Cup format was used in one of the tournaments, and her team, called the Red Rodents, lost to Team White. Bockerstette was named her team’s MVP by scoring the most team points, winning both her singles and doubles matches, according to her mom. Jenny Bockerstette added that the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf of Phoenix welcomed Bockerstette in with the other elite golfers, allowing her a caddie. Her dad is her caddie in that program.
This is the first year she has competed in nine varsity matches for O’Connor. ‘We challenged them every week, had all of the girls play and whoever had the best scores would play,’ Casey said. ‘She was in the top five every week. I think Matt’s done a great job with her.’
As much as Bockerstette’s game has improved, Acuff, now in his fourth year working with her, said she has made him a better teacher. ‘I never treat her as having a disability,’ Acuff said. ‘I try to have her as normal as possible. I’ve always encouraged (her parents), ‘She is capable of more than we realize.’ They have given her the love, the atmosphere, the financial means, the activities that she is involved in to really expand and not just be stuck at home. I really have to applaud Sandra Day O’Connor, because they have been active in her progress, to have special needs kids in the regular classroom. She is 80 percent in regular classroom.’ Bockerstette also is involved in the school’s theater and dance programs. ‘She’s like a celebrity,’ Acuff said.”
(Photo by Patrick Breen for AZcentral Sports.)