She was surprised. But she always is. When Amy Bockerstette’s family threw a birthday bash for the 21-year-old at the Champions Course at TPC Scottsdale, Amy was beyond thrilled by all the well-wishes. Many LPGA Tour players, including Danielle Kang and So Yeon Ryu, as well as staff like Commissioner Mike Whan and Chief Brand and Communications Officer Roberta Bowman, wished Amy a Happy Birthday via video. Her biggest fan, U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, sang “Happy Birthday” to her through video as well. It was an overwhelming afternoon of love and support for a remarkable young woman.
If you don’t know Amy, and if you haven’t seen the video of her playing the 16th hole with Woodland during a practice round at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, you are poorer for it.
Amy, an alumna of LPGA*USGA Girls Golf and a graduate of the LPGA Leadership Academy, is the only person with Down syndrome ever to receive a college golf scholarship. She plays at Paradise Valley Community College near her home.
But her story reaches far beyond the Phoenix area.
“Amy didn’t know that she was going to play (the 16th) with Gary until she walked in,” said Joe Bockerstette, Amy’s father. “Once it was over, we were ecstatic at how well it went and how the crowd reacted. But we thought that was going to be it. The video was on ESPN SportsCenter that night and we thought, ‘Wow, that was great.’ It was a good run, but we figured we’d move on with our lives.
“But the next morning, about 10 a.m., we got a note from the PGA Tour saying they had just posted the video. Forty minutes after it went up, I pulled it up and it had 100,000 views. I turned to my wife, Jenny, and said, ‘This could be big.’”
It was. In various platforms from YouTube to the PGA Tour’s website and social media, the video has over 43 million views.
“After Gary won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, that reenergized the story again,” Joe said. “The media requests after the U.S. Open were far greater than after the Phoenix Open. It has dominated my family’s life ever since. It took on a life of its own. We still get two requests (for Amy) a week.”
Amy, who was also the first person with Down syndrome to compete in the Arizona girls junior championship when she was in high school, played in the pro-am for the LPGA Tour’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup three years ago with Gerina Piller and Sarah Jane Smith, and attended the tournament again this past March to be part of the launch of the LPGA’s “Drive On” initiative. But even before the words became part of the LPGA’s lexicon, Amy Bockerstette was Driving On.
“Amy had a busy summer on the road attending golf charity outings and galas and different events where she participated in helping people raise money,” Joe said. “Along the way, we had a lot of conversations with folks about creating some sort of vehicle for Amy to give back. That became the genesis of the I GOT THIS Foundation.”
Amy’s sister, Lindsey Corbin, who works in private equity in Arizona, runs the foundation, which was announced during Amy’s 21st birthday party.
“We, as a family, have been talking about this for a few months and we really thought with Amy turning 21, it was an awesome opportunity to use that platform to announce the foundation,” Corbin said. “Since then, we’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of family and friends. We want to use this amazing opportunity on a bigger scale. We want to let the world know that people with intellectual disabilities can make a contribution if they are included. Inclusion is the big thing. And golf provides that.”
Joe added: “Golf is an inclusive sport. We saw golf as a way for Amy to engage in society. She can play with anyone else who plays golf. She can keep up. She can score and she can do things that create a positive impression on those she plays with. People see that this person with Down syndrome can not only play but she is a great person with a great personality. It creates another opportunity for the larger community of those with intellectual disabilities to show that they belong, that they can fit in like anybody else.
“That’s what we hope to achieve from the foundation. We want to provide more of an opportunity for people like Amy to fit in like everybody else.”
Whether it’s blowing kisses to an enthusiastic crowd at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, greeting well-wishers at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, sitting with Woodland on the set of NBC's TODAY show after the U.S. Open or engaging with her teammates at Paradise Valley, Amy seems to fit in wherever she goes.
“Virtually every day Amy gets recognized by somebody,” Joe said. “They come up to her and say, ‘I saw you on the golf video.’ Frequently, they start crying. Then they share stories about having a tough day or a job interview that they’ve been stressing about where they said, ‘I got this, just like Amy.’ When those moments pass, Amy will turn to me and say, ‘Dad, they saw my video.’ I always chuckle and say, ‘That’s great Amy.’
“We want to promote instruction and playing opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities,” Joe said, reiterating the mission of the I GOT THIS Foundation. “Amy has been the beneficiary of playing golf for seven years. She’s had a coach. She’s played competitively. She’s been on teams. She’s gotten the typical teenage girl experience through golf. But she’s the only one we’ve ever seen with intellectual disabilities who has done this. We’d like to build on her legacy and help create more opportunities for people like Amy.
“Five, 10 years down the road, I’d love to see dozens more people like Amy earning college golf scholarships. In order to get there, they have to receive instruction and the ability to play, to learn the rules and etiquette and golf, of course to hit the shots and fit in with a community of golfers. That’s why we formed this foundation. That’s what we want to achieve.”