Morgan Seeley, AJGA Communications
At the end of a round juniors can always be found on the driving range, but at this year’s Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf, juniors spent their evening a little differently. Juniors spent their Friday evening with the athletes from The Golf for Autism Summer Camps presented by Help Us Golf (HUG) and Healing Every Autistic Life (HEAL), and Special Olympics Area 5.
Fourteen athletes from HUG/HEAL and almost half of the field came out to show off their skills, competing in chipping, putting and “Big Break” challenges. Each athlete was paired with a group of juniors where they competed in teams and learned a few new tricks.
In attendance was junior Matt Gilchrest of Southlake, Texas, who particularly appreciates the relationship they build with the HUG/HEAL athletes.
“It is an awesome experience to share what we love with what they love,” Gilchrest said. “We make a special bond, doing what we both enjoy, especially if we can help them get better at it. All around it is just a great experience.”
This mindset of sharing is seen in the other juniors like Michael Pisciotta of Alpharetta, Ga. Pisciotta would like to see these activities at all Invitationals because of the feeling the juniors get from participating.
“It is really nice to just have fun with the HUG/HEAL athletes and treat them like they aren’t any different,” Pisciotta said. “I wish that we had events like this at every Invitational. I think a lot more juniors come to these events because it makes you feel great.”
With the array of things that make this tournament exceptional for the juniors, Gilchrest hopes that they are able to give the HUG/HEAL athletes the same experience.
“You see a lot of them celebrate and put their arms up in the air, it is just a great moment,” Gilchrest said. “It makes the event even more special, and turns the focus from how special they make it for us to how special we make it for other people. We want to give them the same feeling we get coming to this event at their own event.”