In 1998, a young Spaniard by the name of Sergio García won the American Junior Golf Association’s Apawamis Junior Invitational.
Almost 20 years later, García’s foundation sponsored an AJGA tournament last weekend at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge near Orlando, Florida.
On his way to compete in what he calls his favorite PGA Tour event, the Players Championship, García spent time engaging the field of youngsters after Saturday’s round. He gave a clinic, answered questions and signed autographs.
If that wasn’t enough, Garcia returned Sunday and spent the afternoon roaming the course, talking to competitors, and ultimately handing out the hard earned hardware.
Clearly, he took his sponsorship seriously. And the kids will never forget.
“I am very excited about this,” he told me. “I played some with the AJGA. It’s a great way for juniors to learn how to compete.”
García won the Players in 2008, one of the biggest victories of his career. Coming off a third-place finish at the Spanish Open, García likes the state of his game as he heads to TPC Sawgrass.
“I have been practicing nicely, and I played well (there),” he said.
While several professionals around the world have begged off the Olympics, García is excited about the possibility for playing for his native Spain this summer in Brazil.
“I am extremely excited to have a chance to be a part of the Olympics,” he said. “To be able to represent your country, I don’t want to let that chance go by. If I manage to win a medal, that would be amazing.”
And after the Olympics, there is that other international golf competition of some repute: the Ryder Cup. García has been a key cog in the European team’s success since he played in his first Ryder Cup in 1999, posting an 18-8-4 overall record in his matches.
When asked if he was pointing toward that, he quickly agreed.
“No doubt,” he said. “Every year when there is a Ryder Cup there is a little extra excitement. If I am part of that team, I know it’s going to be tough. The U.S. is really pushing hard to win the Ryder Cup back.”