Ponte Vedra resident Paul Tesori is the caddie for PGA TOUR golfer Webb Simpson, who won THE PLAYERS Championship in 2018. Tesori grew up in St. Augustine and played golf at the University of Florida, where he won a national championship in 1993. He played on the PGA TOUR a few years himself before becoming a caddie. Before Simpson, Tesori caddied for Vijay Singh, Jerry Kelly, Chris Couch and Sean O’Hair.
When you reflect on last year’s win at THE PLAYERS, what do you remember most?
For me, it was the emotion of being part of winning the golf tournament. THE PLAYERS is the tournament I wanted to win more than any other besides the Masters. My grandfather and my dad taught me how to play golf in the area when I was 5 years old. In 1981, we went out to TPC before it was even grassed over, and we hit shots off 17. So, it was just that whole history I had. I also had a close call here with Vijay (Singh) losing by one. So, for me, it was finally checking that one off the box and getting that one done. Right behind that would be getting to experience it with my friends and family.
How do you think the course will play in March, compared to May?
March can be hit or miss. It might be 85 degrees, blowing 5 mph and beautiful. Or we could get one of our little nor’easters, and it could be 57 and blowing 25 mph with some misty rain. In May, we knew what we were going to get. We were going to get one or two days of some late afternoon thunderstorms. We were going to get warm weather, and the ball was going to go forever. March is our windiest month here, and it’s also going to be 13 degrees cooler than it will be in May, so the ball is going to go a lot shorter. That’s a big change there. A par 5 like No. 2 that we’re used to hitting five wood off the tee and still getting home in two with a hybrid, is now going to be a driver or a three wood. Another example is No. 18. We hit hybrid off the tee the last day and probably should have hit a seven iron in the green for our second, and that’s now going to be a three wood or a driver into that north wind.
How do you think your experience playing TPC Sawgrass in various months throughout your life will help Webb?
I’ll have a bigger advantage the harder the conditions are. During the harder conditions, some of my knowledge about missed spots, where to leave the golf ball, how to play the golf course, will come into play. I think I’ve played over 700 rounds there. You can’t take that away from me. No matter what, there are things I know there that people won’t be able to figure out.
What’s the story of the Tesori Family Foundation?
I always had a dream of starting my own foundation. At UF, we used to do one hour of community service each week. We went to a senior center, and there was a lady named Eileen there. We played Yahtzee every week, and it was something I always remembered. I said one day, I want to have my own foundation and try to do something for child poverty, hunger and seniors. For the first four or five years, my wife Michele and I did a lot of work in the local community with mostly homeless shelters, such as the Sulzbacher Shelter and the St. Augustine Coalition, and we did as much as we could for senior centers, too. Then, my son Isaiah was born with one extra chromosome, aka Down syndrome. Very quickly, the Lord gave us a push for what we wanted to do. We wanted to get more involved in the community of kids with special needs. It’s really now blown up for us. Anybody who has met my wife and son, they know how quickly they can become a part of your heart, and they’ve done a tremendous job with that. With us winning THE PLAYERS in 2018, it’s really brought a bigger light to the foundation. We were able to go over $1 million this year since 2010, which we’re excited about.
How important has your faith been throughout your life?
There is nothing more important. My road was a little different than most. I kind of thought I was a believer. I was kind of walking in the light of saying I was a Christian. Not until later on in life, 2010 to be exact, did I look at my life and realize there was no fruit that showed I was a believer. So, I changed my life. I was baptized, became a follower of Christ and started walking in a different light. Very quickly, things started falling apart for me, worldly. I lost my job for the first time ever. That was when the housing crisis had really hit, so I had lost all of the money I had made. Everything worldly had been stripped, but it was the most at peace I had ever been in my life. It was such a great learning experience for me, knowing that the Lord was stripping me of those things I was holding onto. He stripped me of those things and showed me it’s not about me, it’s about him and what he’s been able to give me. Everything then happened really quickly. The biggest being my boss, Webb Simpson, who hired me in 2011. He was a believer. He was struggling with his game at the time at 213th in the world. I was struggling as a new believer. He was able to help me out a lot with my faith, and I was able to help him a lot with his golf game. It was a good marriage for sure.
Edited by Jon Blauvelt