With masks dutifully donned, temperatures tested and social distancing observed, about 20 children and youths and their families turned out Tuesday, Oct. 13, at TPC Sawgrass for the Tesori Family Foundation’s All-Star Kids Clinic.
But the addition of CDC precautions in the wake of COVID-19 did not diminish the familiar fun for the young golfers who were back for more opportunities to improve their skills or whack a special “ball” at a huge, inflatable gorilla.
The clinic, hosted by the foundation in cooperation with the PGA TOUR, brings together children and youths between the ages of 8 and 18 with special needs for one-on-one instruction and a day of fun and laughter.
Members of the First Tee of North Florida were on hand to provide guidance, instruction and support. LPGA player Amelia Lewis also returned to offer help and encouragement.
The first clinic was held in August 2014, and since then it has grown to serve more than 200 kids in Ponte Vedra; Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi – all PGA TOUR stops.
The foundation was established in 2009 by Paul Tesori of St. Augustine and wife Michelle to give back to those in need in Northeast Florida. After the birth of son Isaiah, who has Down syndrome, it was expanded to offer programming for children with special needs throughout the United States.
“We’re excited to introduce the game to these kids,” said Paul Tesori. “It’s a game that’s been beyond good to me.”
Tesori has been caddying on the PGA TOUR for more than 20 years, 10 of which he was with 2018 PLAYERS champion Webb Simpson.
Isaiah was in attendance Monday to join in the fun. He led the prayer at the start of the festivities.
“Faith is very, very important to Michelle and I,” Tesori told those gathered at the practice facility. “It is what brought us together. And I still believe in my heart that’s why we’ve been blessed with this young man over here who happens to have that extra chromosome.”
Beyond learning to enjoy the game of golf, Tesori said it’s good for the children’s hand-eye coordination.
He pointed out how special-needs children are often happy with any accomplishment.
“I really do believe kids with special needs, they see the world in a different way, a purer way, a simpler way,” he said, contrasting that with the frustration and negativity of others.
Lewis said she was happy to be invited back to the clinic for a second year.
“It means so much,” she said. “I mean, these kids are so much fun to be around.”
She said golf is the kind of fun activity the kids could do with their parents.
Addressing the families gathered for the clinic, Tesori acknowledged that some days were hard but added that there were “many, many more glorious days.”
He said special-needs children are neither an accident nor broken.
“You are a blessing to us,” he told the young All-Stars.
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