As Camrin Sandoz’s final putt dropped on the 18th hole of the Perfect Sense Pro-Am, he turned to his playing partner and PGA professional, Arjun Atwal, and handed him a gift to commemorate the round – his gold medal from the 2015 Special Olympics Louisiana State Golf Tournament.
Humbly, Arjun said that he could not accept the medal, but Camrin insisted, declaring, “Don’t worry, I’ll win another one next year!”
On Thursday morning, the Sandoz Family returned to Robert Trent Jones Golf Club to watch the first round of the Quicken Loans National. They tracked down Arjun in time to watch him birdie four of his final six holes. As Arjun walked off the course he saw Camrin along the ropes, came over with a Gatorade, and shared that Camrin’s gold medal was tucked away in his bag for good luck. Without missing a beat, Camrin responded, “Now I know why you made all those birdies!”
In it’s third year as the lead sponsor of the Monday Pro-Am at the Quicken Loans National, Perfect Sense once again brought together a collection of golfers from Special Olympics, The First Tee, and Feherty’s Troops First Foundation. These golfers were paired with a Perfect Sense partner and a PGA TOUR professional to comprise the unique fivesomes that took to course. Coming from different walks of life and many having overcome considerable odds, these golfers inspired all of their teammates and the spectators that walked the course Monday afternoon.
For some pros, like Arjun, their playing partners changed their perspectives, but in other cases, it was the pros that left a mark.
Professionals Lift Up Teammates
Brandy Bush, a Special Olympics golfer from Binghamton, New York, got off to a rough start at Monday’s event until a one-on-one conversation gave her the confidence she needed. Through the first nine holes, Brandy struggled with nerves and quickly grew frustrated with her game. As her group made the turn, her accompanying pro, Whee Kim, took her aside, gave some tips and lifted her spirit. Through the final nine holes, Brandy was on fire, bombing drive after drive down the fairway.
Isabel Gonzalez from The First Tee of Raritan Valley and James Moore from The First Tee of Greater Washington DC had the special opportunity to play alongside three-year PGA TOUR pro and First Tee alum, Scott Langley. “Playing with a pro like Scott, who was in our shoes just a few years ago, was really inspiring,” reflected James. “Seeing how much he has accomplished gives me confidence that I can reach that level and fulfill my dreams.
More Than a Round of Golf
Although the week was highlighted by Monday’s Pro-Am, the participants experienced far more. After the golfers arrived from around the country on Sunday afternoon, they were treated to a welcome picnic at Nottoway Park. This relaxing dinner on a typical, steamy late-July evening, helped break the ice among teammates, providing all with an opportunity to connect off the course in advance of Monday’s round. Competitive games of touch football, cornhole, and KanJam were the highlight of the picnic. While many played in the adjacent fields, others sat around the picnic tables talking and sharing stories about the unique paths that had brought them here.
Following Monday’s Pro-Am, the golfers were back at the tee box on Tuesday morning at Creighton Farms. Six foursomes, comprised of three golfers from The First Tee and one from Special Olympics, played an 18-hole scramble. The eventual winning team got off to a blazing start when Terese Romeo from The First Tee of Tampa Bay holed out her approach on the first hole for eagle. With closest-to-the-pin contests throughout the round, the golfers battled for clubhouse gift cards. Brandon Doner from The First Tee of The Palm Beaches won with a phenomenal tee shot on the par-3 15th hole that landed less than an inch from the cup.
The trip, however, was not entirely about golf. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, the golfers made their way to DC to explore our nation’s capital. As the sun set on Tuesday, the golfers visited the inspiring sites of the Lincoln, Vietnam, Korea, and World War II memorials. They returned on Wednesday afternoon to visit the Air & Space Museum and Newseum. These educational opportunities off the course provided a unique dimension to the week, and for those making their first visit to DC, left them inspired by trips to these national landmarks.
The week also included a visit to Perfect Sense headquarters, where the golfers explored different career paths including product management, visual design, and software engineering. For Casey Lindo from The First Tee of Charlotte, this event provided one of the biggest takeaways. “I intend to study computer science in college, so having the opportunity to meet with website and app developers was really valuable. Talking one-on-one with an engineer and having him answer my questions gave me insight into what to expect as I head into my senior year of high school.”
For the past three years, the Perfect Sense Pro-Am has set an example about the values of opportunity and inclusion. Uniting wounded service members, individuals with intellectual disabilities, and teenage golfers and providing them with an outlet to showcase their remarkable talents, Perfect Sense has created an annual event that highlights talents that are too often overlooked.
As David Curtin, a three-time participant from Special Olympics Virginia, beautifully reflected, “For the Special Olympics athletes and Troops First guys, this week shows that we’re not limited by our disabilities. We’ve proven that we can do anything and overcome any obstacle put in our way.”