Insurance salesman David Johnson went from heckler to hero at Hazeltine last September
I’ll never forget the 2016 Ryder Cup. Not because the United States finally won the trophy back, but because some members of the European team allowed me to live a phenomenal golfing experience. My friends and I had arrived at Hazeltine on the Thursday and found a spot beside par-3 8th green to watch a few groups on their practice rounds. The first featured Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Andy Sullivan.
“Rory hit a great tee shot in to about 13 feet, but, despite a few tries, neither he nor Sullivan could make the putt. Henrik and Justin dropped a couple of balls on the same spot but before they putted I shouted, ‘I could make that putt.’
“Henrik looked at the crowd, stepped towards us and said: ‘Who said that?’ My first thought was to run, but he didn’t look too angry, so I put my hand up. ‘Let’s get you out here,’ Henrik said.
“He must have been thinking let’s let this guy embarrass himself, but I was so excited about being on the same green as some of the world’s best golfers that I didn’t think about the putt until Justin ran over and threw down $100 to make things ‘a bit more real’.
“At that moment the size of the crowd, the enormity of the moment and the fact that I am not actually a very good putter hit home! I tried to buy some time by asking Henrik how he had read the putt. ‘You told me you have got it, so go ahead and hit the putt,’ he smiled.
“I walked around the green to settle my heart rate and was interrupted by Rory. My sons and I had watched him win the FedEx Cup a few days earlier and now he was speaking to me. It was a rush. ‘Andy’s putter is the one we’ve been missing with, so it’s the one you’ve got to use,’ he said, handing me a club that was shorter than my normal putter. It felt awkward to say the least.
Suddenly 13 feet looked more like 40. If you’d asked me how many times out of 10 I would expect to find the hole in that situation, I’d have said zero.I took a deep breath and told myself, ‘Just get it close. Hit the corner or something, so you don’t look too bad.’
“In my head I recall having very little confidence that it was going in, but watching the video back I take a step towards the hole and begin celebrating while the ball is still rolling. Clearly my adrenalin was pumping in a big way.
“It was an incredible moment. The players seemed to enjoy it as much as I did and we relived the moment when I was invited onto the range for some pictures with them later in the day.
“Then Rory posted the video of my putt on social media! Suddenly everyone wanted to speak to me. I was live on CNN, live on ESPN Sports Center and Good Morning America. Then on the Sunday night I was own to New York for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert (I took part in a sketch where I made a putt after interrupting the presenter when he was playing a round of mini golf). But the best was yet to come as some people from Augusta heard me on the radio and invited me to the first round of this year’s Masters.
“Thanks to Rory, Henrik, Justin and Andy, we created a golfing moment that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”
Reproduced from an article in Todays Golfer