WEST CALDWELL, NEW JERSEY | Proud parents are a part of almost every amateur golf experience. You see them at junior golf events all the time, fathers living and dying with each shot a daughter or son hits. Sometimes they’re criticized for being too close, too involved, too this or too that, when all they want is not to screw up these priceless moments between a parent and child. In the rarest of cases, the young person rises to the highest levels of the game, becoming a successful touring professional. But at its lowest end, these dads have memories they will cherish forever and golf partners they can count on for the rest of their lives.
When that’s the bottom, there is no downside.
No one knows that better than Andre Avery, who couldn’t stop smiling as his daughter Amari came into the media center at the Cognizant Founders Cup for a pre-tournament interview. Amari is the 17-year-old sponsors invite who qualified for a spot in the field this week by winning The John Shippen Shootout in Chicago earlier in the summer. That event, part of The John Shippen National Invitational, was held to showcase the best Black golfers in America.
“It was a great experience,” Amari said of her John Shippen experience. “Just playing in The John Shippen (Shootout) was a great opportunity for me and others like me. We had two exemptions. One was to go into the Dow (Great Lakes Bay Invitational) and my teammate at the time, Bailey Davis, we were trying to get into that one. But we finished third and got into the Shootout. I was trying my best to get that one individual spot. That was really my goal for the week. And I got it done.
“I'm so glad I'm here. Cognizant and The John Shippen and people who ran the event, they did a great job of including diversity into the tournament and making that such a big part of this event.”
Andre’s eyes glistened as he listened to his daughter, who has had an extraordinary amateur career for a girl who will graduate early from high school this December. She played in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the U.S. Girls Junior, qualified for her first U.S. Women’s Open, competed in the Girls’ Junior PGA Championship, the PING Junior Solheim Cup, and she won the Mack Champ Invitational, a premier junior tournament since 1941.
“I've been in a few pro events, like mini tours and obviously U.S. Open and here (at the Cognizant Founders Cup) and then the Epson (Tour),” said Avery. “I've played on pretty much all levels of professional golf so far. Getting that experience as an amateur, seeing what pro (golf) life can be like, has been amazing. I've talked to many girls here and in other events as well and they've given me great advice.”
Then the subject turned to her father, who by then was standing nearby videoing his daughter’s poise and grace.
“I got started when I was three years old from my dad,” Amari said. “He was heavily influenced by Tiger Woods. And I am, still, to this day. My dad got me into golf. It was an aspiration of his and has been a very big dream of mine. Even without the tournaments and all the accolades that I've had, it's just been an amazing journey.”
From the age of seven, she knew that this was her dream. “My dad and I worked very hard and I still do now,” Amari said. “When I was younger, I won a lot, so I just kind of was like, hey, I'm pretty good at this. I should probably stick with it.”
She is also realistic. “I don't really have too many expectations,” she said of her week at Mountain Ridge. “I'm still an amateur, so I’m not really out here trying to do much. I’m just trying to be nice to myself, not be so hard on myself out here. I just want to gain the experience and put my best game out. I'm still trying to learn how to be inside the ropes. It's obviously a great experience. It's a wonderful thing to be inside the ropes, but I'm still trying to get used to it.
“Seeing the caddies prep their players and just be with the pros out here, it's definitely new to me but something I want to get used to.”
She had familiar company in her own preparation for this event. And she will have a calming voice by her side throughout the week.
“Dad is caddying this week,” Amari said, smiling at Andre who was standing off to the side. “He was trying get me a professional caddie for the week and I said, ‘You’ve gotten me to so many places and given me so many experiences. I want you to be inside and experience it for yourself instead being outside the ropes.’ So, he's on the bag.”
Another father-daughter experience that neither will forget. It doesn’t get much better.