ANY form of intellectual disability presents significant challenges for the individual to navigate an increasingly complex world with any certainty.

Enter Amy Bockerstette.

Amy is the first person with Down Syndrome to compete in a college national championship in the United States, the NJCAA golf national championship, from May 10 – 13 in Florida.

Amy was born on the 15 October, 1998 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1999, Amy’s parents Joe and Jenny, co-founded the Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Indiana with several other Fort Wayne families.

Amy’s first experience with golf came in the Spring of her eighth grade year. She participated on a school club golf team, where she impressed her school’s coach such that he recommended to her parents that she join the girls golf team in high school.

Amy attended high school in Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated with a full diploma in May 2018. She played on the high school girls golf team for four years before earning her varsity letter for golf.

At just 22, Amy is a sophomore at the Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix. Indeed, she was the first person with Down Syndrome to be awarded an athletic scholarship.

In 2019, Amy made par on the 16th hole at Scottsdale, playing alongside PGA player Gary Woodland. Her confidence was for all to see as she declared “I got this” as she sunk an 8 foot putt for par.

“Amy puts life in perspective real quick,” Woodland said. “Her attitude, her perspective, her energy, it’s so contagious. She obviously had dealt with Down syndrome, and she’s turned it into a positive. I think that’s the biggest deal.

“Life is not always perfect. You can take a negative and turn it into a positive and that’s pretty special. And it’s contagious. Her love and her attitude not only that day, but the videos she sends me, it’s pretty special.”

The “I Got This” comment went viral, leading to the establishment of a the “I Got This” Foundation by Amy and her family. The aim is to support those with intellectual and developmental challenges for golf tuition and easier access to sport in general.

“We want to use Amy’s celebrity to make other people’s lives better, most immediately those with Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities but, more broadly, anyone who sees value in Amy’s achievement in their lives,” her father, Joe Bockerstette stated at the time.

“It’s been a great run,” he said. “Very, very fun. Many high moments. The fun has been in the experiences enabled by this.

“She was destined to be chosen for this. That’s the only way you can interpret what’s happened.”

Over the past year, Amy and her family have taken part in 29 events around the country — while turning down just 10 invitations, Jenny said — all of which met the family’s criteria for agreeing to attend: “Is their mission consistent with our mission?”

Indeed, Amy has become something of a role model for those with intellectual disability. It is through her love of sport, especially golf, that has provided the opportunity to improve her self-esteem, self-worth and overall confidence to deal with a world not always sensitive to the issue.

Amy has become increasingly comfortable with her celebrity status and understands the responsibility that comes with it, Joe said. She likes to engage in conversations and is very approachable, especially with other people with Down syndrome.

The fame means Amy now gets recognized everywhere, not just on golf courses. When people approach her for a photo and tell her they saw her video, she usually goes back to her parents excited that someone saw the popular video.

“That’s the sort of innocence of her personality,” Joe said. “The sincerity and innocence that comes with it. And every once in a while, jokingly, I’ll say to her, ‘I know, Ames, 43 million people have seen it.’

“But that’s the wonder of Amy. I mean it honestly. I don’t know if it’s because of Down syndrome or not, but she has a sincere innocence. That just doesn’t go away. That’s very engaging for people.”

Amy is who the world wants and needs, Woodland believed.

“The world wants good stories,” Woodland said. “We want happy stories. Sometimes it’s all negative, it’s all bad stuff. There’s nothing bad about Amy. People love that. They want a little bit more love and positive energy and positive attitude.”

A world where the struggles for equality, inclusivity, tolerance and understanding are rapidly changing, mainly for the better.

As it turns out, Amy is also majoring in dance at college, while noted for her theatre and musical performances in high school. She also is proficient at playing the piano. Other sports include swimming, baseball and volleyball.

A true inspiration for all young women, where once again, the importance of sport cannot be underestimated.


Image via ESPN

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