Thomas Cleek, 18, of Columbia, recently traveled to New Jersey as part of the United PGA Experience at Northern Trust. He had the chance to meet up with old friends, make new ones and receive golf tips from PGA Tour pros. He wrote a blog about his experience.
Day 1 – Aug. 21
Had a great flight on United Airlines to New Jersey. When mom and I landed in New Jersey we met up with Lauren that works for Special Olympics; she got us a ride to the hotel. The cool thing was when we were about to go eat dinner, all my buddies showed up that I met in Seattle at USA Games. Dinner was really good and I had great time visiting with my friends. After dinner went down to the pool with some of my buddies and hung out there for a awhile.
Day 2 – Aug. 22
On the way to the golf course and back we had PGA cars come pick us up to go to the golf course and take us back to the hotel; it was so cool. When I got to Ridgewood Country Club, we were given a locker where the PGA players were. I got to see Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth. I also got to participate in a clinic with PGA Professional coaches that helped me on my golf game. Then we went on the putting green and saw Tommy Fleetwood and other golfers. The best part of the day was I got to play three holes with professional golfer James Hahn. He was so much fun to play with and talk to too. The advice that James gave me was unbelievable advice that I never heard of. I asked him “How do you handle nerves?” He told me, “ I just stick to what I can do and believe myself and breathe.”
Day 3 – Aug. 23
I got the chance with other Special Olympics athletes got to go see the first round of the Northern Trust Open. The experience was super cool to spend it with all the athletes and they also got to see professional golf in person which is super cool. The other cool thing was that we got to watch the tournament from the United Airlines VIP Suite. The food was super good. I would just like to say thank you for providing food for me that I can eat for the days that we were at the golf course. After the golf tournament we had dinner with Peter Condon’s family then we hung out with them in their room afterward.