After crushing 72nd hole debacle, Tour winner’s gesture makes young fans’ day
Emiliano Grillo had every right to be upset Sunday.
In just a few minutes, he had gone from in control of the Charles Schwab Challenge, up by two shots, to tied for the lead and about to watch someone putt to win the tournament.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, Grillo blocked his tee shot on the 72nd way right and into a stream that trickled his ball almost all the way back to the tee. After taking several minutes to decide how he would play his next shot — including considering playing it from the stream — Grillo dropped on a cart path and eventually made double bogey.
That dropped him down to eight under and tied with Harry Hall and Adam Schenk, who still had to play Colonial’s 18th.
The odds of a playoff went from almost zero moments earlier to nearly certain, but both players could still make a birdie to win outright.
Hall drove it in the pond left, but Schenk got his second on the green, giving him a putt to win outright, while Hall had one to tie.
Normally in this situation, pros usually sign for their scorecard then head to the practice area or stay back to watch if there will be a playoff. But Grillo wasn’t watching. He was on the 1st tee.
“I just made a double,” Grillo said. “I basically gave the tournament away, and it wasn’t up to me. It wasn’t in my hands. It was a moment that I needed to get my head out of that.”
He was able to hit balls off the tee there instead of the practice range, which is much farther away, between the third and fifth holes, because the course is being torn up Monday to begin a renovation by Gil Hanse.
However, it wasn’t just Grillo who hit balls.
The Argentine spotted two young boys watching him and called them over. It took some ribbing of the pair, who were either shy or shocked a tour pro was inviting them inside the ropes, by Grillo, but, with the help of a security guard to lift them over a rail, they made their way over to Grillo.
CBS cameras caught it all. But this wasn’t just a meet and greet, Grillo even let them hit some balls, with his clubs. The same ones he was about to play a playoff with.
Turns out, Grillo was reliving a moment from his childhood.
“I guess it was a little bit of a trick to get my head out of the situation,” Grillo said later. “There’s two kids right next to the 1st tee, and I’m like, ‘Hey, you guys want to hit balls?’ I wish—they’re 7, 8 years old or however old they are. José Cóceres did it with me when I was 7, 8 years old, and that was the greatest experience of all, just watching him and hitting his clubs. I kind of got to do it with them, and hopefully, they’ll remember that.”
One boy was left-handed. Even as Grillo insisted it was OK for him to swing his right-handed club upside down left-handed, the boy went cross-handed and flushed the iron with a swing that would have made Josh Broadway proud.
“I’ve never been over here,” one of the boys told the PGA Tour. “That was probably like the best thing ever.”
Turns out the heartwarming moment was exactly what Grillo needed.
Schenk missed his birdie effort forcing a playoff. On the first playoff hole, Grillo conquered his demons on the 18th hole from earlier, making par, and then birdied the 16th to win.
Not only did Grillo clear his head just in time to get his second PGA Tour title, but he also gave those two kids a memory that may last a lifetime. Or at least until they win on the PGA Tour, if history repeats itself.
“That was amazing and he’s a really good golfer,” the other boy said, with Grillo still practicing behind him. “One day, I’ll be like that.”