The first person with Down syndrome to play in a college championship is an upbeat Phoenix resident named Amy Bockerstette.
The 22-year-old hit that milestone when she played in the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship at Plantation Bay Golf & Country Club in Ormond Beach, Florida, in mid-May. She has been a member of the women’s golf team at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix for three years.
“I don’t get nervous, just very excited! I am very happy to be here,” the inspiring young woman told People about her national championship games. “[My] dad does get nervous, though.”
Puma Athletica, who just awarded the college sophomore a Golden Puma student leadership award, applauded Amy’s history-making moment in a tweet.
HISTORY MADE! Puma Golf was part of history today as @AmyGolfsNDances is the 1st collegiate athlete w/Down syndrome to compete in a national championship w/ @NJCAA Best of luck to Coach Matt Keel, and Amber Daczka, Paige Dormal, Emily Ingels, Sara Kearns, Jinkung Kim! #GoPumas pic.twitter.com/0oA8tXRqig
— Puma Athletics (@PVCCPumas) May 10, 2021
Bockerstette also posted about the event on her Twitter account at @AmyGolfsandDances, calling it “an incredible and memorable week” and giving a shoutout to her supporters by referencing “Amy’s Village.”
Such an incredible and memorable week @NJCAA @NJCAAGolf Women’s ⛳️ Championship! THANK YOU 🙏🏽 to my team and everyone 👏🏽 who helped make it possible and supported us along the way. I ❤️ Amy’s Village❗️#InclusionRevolution#LittleGirlsBIGDreams#DownSyndromeRocks#AmysVillage pic.twitter.com/2uIc5xTqU9
— Amy Bockerstette (@AmyGolfsNDances) May 17, 2021
Bockerstette started golfing with her family in elementary school and played on her high school team before her father submitted her golf stats and video to the golf coach at Paradise Valley Community College. That’s when she achieved another milestone: she is believed to be the first person with Down Syndrome to receive an athletic scholarship to college. However, the national college athletic associations don’t keep records on the scholarship status of students with Down Syndrome, so this is not confirmed.
Bockerstette’s mother, Jenny, said that a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) leadership academy Amy attended while in high school helped build her confidence. For one thing, it taught her to use phrases like “I am strong, I am confident, I am proud to be happy!” and helped her create her own “power pose.”
In a video interview below posted by the LPGA Girls Golf program, Jenny shared a little more about Amy’s love of golf and her impact on others.
It was Bockerstette’s positive tagline “I got this!” and her impressive playing out of a sand trap that remained in pro golfer Gary Woodland’s mind after he played a practice round with her in 2019 ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
When Woodland won the PGA Tournament soon after, he went on the record saying Amy’s motivational words helped him win. That’s when Amy first went viral.
A Twitter video posted of her with Woodland, showing her using the mantra, has received more than 6.4 million views.
"Amy … you're our hero."
How a superstar named Amy teamed up with @GaryWoodland to win the hearts of the 16th hole crowd @WMPhoenixOpen.#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/iRhZbvdjuP
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 30, 2019
Since then Bockerstette and her family have created the I Got This Foundation to help others with intellectual disabilities play golf. She is also a Special Olympics spokesperson and has made public appearances on TV and thrown out first pitches at baseball games. In 2019, she was the keynote speaker for the National Down Syndrome Congress Annual Convention.
She most recently played in the 2021 United States Disabled Golf Association Open in mid-May. You can see her posing with other golfers with disabilities below.
And, we’re off to a great start! @USDGA ⛳️ with Gianna Rojas @AdaptiveGolfers and Grace Anne Braxton @SpecialOlympics.
I ❤️ this❗️#USDGAOpen2021 pic.twitter.com/Ync0D4VAkO
— Amy Bockerstette (@AmyGolfsNDances) May 19, 2021
Bockerstette also loves to dance, play piano and sing — she’s majoring in dance in college. And, as her Twitter bio says, “I am rocking my extra chromosome.”