A easy gesture led to a ardour that has helped a whole bunch.
Graden Lomax is gearing as much as compete within the Nationwide Automobile Rental PGA Jr. League Nationwide Championship at Grayhawk Nation Membership this weekend for Group North Carolina. However he is probably not there and not using a little encouragement from Tiger Woods.
When Graden was 4 years previous, he attended the 2013 Deutsche Financial institution Championship (now the Dell Applied sciences Championship) the place Tiger was taking part in.
“The primary time I met Tiger, he hit his drive within the tough,” Graden stated. “My dad and I had been proper subsequent to his ball. I began doing follow swings, and he walked as much as me and stated, ‘You’ve got acquired a superb flip, stick with it.’ On the subsequent tee, there was a concession stand arrange for the gamers, and he requested me if I used to be hungry.. I stated, ‘Sure.’ So, he went and acquired me a burger. After he hit his tee shot, he additionally tossed me a [drink]..”
“After that spherical, he requested his caddy to present me a ball, and his caddy walked again to the 18th fairway to search out me, gave me the ball and instructed me Tiger wished me to have this. It was fairly particular.”
What began with a easy gesture impressed Graden to start out taking part in golf competitively on the age of 4, and it seems he did have a superb flip. Graden went on to win two U.S. Children Golf European Championships in 2016 and 2017, in addition to a U.S. Children Golf World Championship in 2017.
However 2013 would not be the final he noticed of Tiger. They’d meet once more on the 2018 Valspar Championship, the place the legend went out of his strategy to meet Graden for the second time.
“I had a buddy that is aware of Tiger’s agent, and he talked about to him how nicely Graden had been taking part in, so Tiger despatched us an autographed hat to our home out of the blue,” Graden’s father, Denton, stated. “After they realized we had been in Tampa, [Florida], they reached out and requested if we wished to fulfill Tiger behind the ropes on the Valspar Championship.”
There, Graden had a one-on-one dialog with one of many biggest golfers of all time. And it modified his outlook on golf.
“He was very nice,” Graden stated. “We talked about Worlds, and he requested me what number of strokes I gained by, and I instructed him 5 strokes. He instructed me to maintain working laborious, and I actually took that severely. The primary time I met him, it made me wish to play. This time, it pushed me to wish to be higher. It pushed me to wish to follow extra and more durable.”
From then on, Graden turned dedicated to his recreation, selecting up one other U.S. Children Golf European Championship in 2019. Nonetheless, it turned clear that he additionally might make the most of taking part in the sport that he loves to assist others. Someday, he noticed an advert for a charity and have become impressed to create a charity golf match.
“I began asking myself if that was one thing I might do. I requested my dad about it,” Graden stated. “I wished to do it Ryder Cup fashion, alternate shot and greatest ball, then scramble and solos. My buddy picked the Nicklaus Youngsters’s Well being Basis because the charity, and we went from there.”
“We came upon the AJGA does a state cup collection, however they didn’t have a Florida occasion, so we reached out to them, they usually helped us type the Florida Sunshine Cup,” Denton shared. “We reached out and located a few of the most elite gamers within the state, invited them, and acquired about eight households on board to start out the occasion and to recruit different gamers.”
What began as a whim and a need to play extra golf turned the Florida Sunshine Cup, a largely profitable partnership with AJGA, drawing a few of the greatest junior golfers in Florida and creating actual change within the lives of many. The occasion has raised greater than $115,000 in its two years of existence, and that quantity will climb after this 12 months’s occasion in November.
The match additionally raises funds for the AJGA ACE Grant program, which provides funding to golfers to have the ability to compete that in any other case would not have the ability to afford to play the tournaments.
As Graden put it: “It is inspiring to make use of one thing you’re keen on to assist others.”
The love of match play and group golf that impressed such a match has carried over into his participation in PGA Jr. League–something he enjoys immensely.
“My accomplice’s title is Grayson. He is been one in every of my mates since I used to be 9, and I acquired partnered with him this 12 months,” Graden stated. “To have him as my teammate is basically, actually useful, as a result of if I hit a foul shot, he is at all times there. He hits a foul shot. I am at all times there. It is simply, it is much more enjoyable in a group setting.”
What’s left for Graden this 12 months? To win at Grayhawk.
“We’ve got a extremely robust group,” he stated. “My accomplice and I are feeling good. My group’s feeling good. We will win this factor.”
The Championship begins with a Abilities Problem and Welcome Celebration hosted by Nationwide Automobile Rental on Thursday, Oct. 7. For the primary time, the Championship shall be broadcast dwell, with protection on: ESPN2 and ESPN+ on Friday, Oct. 8; ESPNEWS and ESPN+ on Saturday, Oct. 9; and ESPN2 on Sunday, Oct. 10.