Written by Shahbaz Hashmi, First Tee – Greater San Antonio Alumni
Shahbaz Hashmi, a participant at The First Tee of Greater San Antonio and grand prize winner of the Wells Fargo Succeeding TogetherSM Essay Contest, shares what it was like playing a round of golf with Tiger Woods at the Wells Fargo Championship Pro‐Am event. The essay contest, created specifically for the 30,000+ teenage participants of The First Tee, celebrates the impact The First Tee has on students across the country and allows participants to express how The First Tee has had a positive effect on their lives. WHAT WAS IT LIKE PLAYING GOLF WITH TIGER WOOD? “I doubt that words can even remotely do justice to how incredible an opportunity this was, but I am going to try nonetheless! Looking back on my experience as this year’s Wells Fargo Succeeding Together grand prize winner, I find myself so thankful for all that has taken place over the past 13 years as a part of The First Tee to shape me into the golfer and individual that I am today. I have truly grown up through the program, and to progress from simply a participant, to a coach and mentor, and now an ambassador for The First Tee truly means the world to me.
Now onto the fun stuff
Every single aspect of my pro-am experience can be summed up into one word – pure.
From the immaculate course conditions at Quail Hollow Club, host of last year’s PGA Championship, to Mr. Woods’ rhythmic, yet powerful swing, to even a handful of shots I hit throughout the day, the round was everything I could have asked for and more. And to be a part of Mr. Woods’ first ever pro-am win is an absolute honor that still hasn’t sunk in yet. One thing worthy of noting is how incredibly warm and welcoming Mr. Woods, his caddie and his manager were. From the moment we were introduced to one another on the range, there was constant chatter (might I say banter?) between Mr. Woods and me about a plethora of topics – from my upcoming AP placement exams to international travel to his junior golf years. Although I got off to a quick start, birdieing both my second and eighth holes, it took a little while to shake off the nerves of playing with the Tiger Woods. With no pars made on my front nine, I didn’t quite steady the ship until the 11th tee, where, as we waited for the fairway to clear, Mr. Woods told me a quick story about what his father instilled in him from a young age: “He would always tell me to swing as hard at the ball as I possibly could, as long as I do two things: one, that I hit the center of the face every time, and two, that I hold my finish every time until the ball drops.” From that drive on, I made it a point to hold my finish, and I quickly returned to my normal ball-striking form, making par on every single hole coming in, including the notoriously difficult Green Mile. The early round nerves seemed to fade away until the eighteenth green, where I was left with a five-foot birdie putt after crushing a drive and flipping a short iron approach. The trepidation of my opening tee shot seemed insignificant to the pressures of knocking in a five-footer amidst a sea of fans – granted they weren’t there to see me. At least I missed it on the high side!
The highlight of our pro-am round (aside from winning the pro-am, of course) came on the seventh-hole, a scenic, reachable par-five with water lining it’s entire left side. Mr. Woods and I were talking about the research and development that went into his new irons, but our conversation soon turned to his putter, famously responsible in part for 13 of his 14 major championship wins. As he lined up his ball with putter in hand, I cheekily asked him, “So what’s the insurance policy on this one?”, which was met with an equally delighted smile. “You wanna roll a few putts with it?” he asked. How could I say no? Not only did I get to use his putter, but he used mine as well!
To Mr. Woods, thank you so much for your kindness and generosity, and for making me feel so welcome and so comfortable not only during our round together, but throughout the week. To The First Tee, Wells Fargo and Quail Hollow Club, I cannot thank you enough for affording me the opportunity to play alongside my hero, my idol and my inspiration.” ~ Shahbaz Hashmi