Patrick Reed inspired during Insperity Invitational/AJGA Junior Championship
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Written by Helen Ross @helen_pgatour
HOUSTON – Golfers are creatures of habit, and Patrick Reed is no exception.
He marks his ball with a 1927 quarter, always placing the coin tails up because he thinks it looks cooler than heads. He uses a No. 3 ball in competition because that’s what he played with when he won his first tournament. He starts each round with six tees in his pocket and doesn’t replace any until the sixth one breaks – even if it’s on the 18th tee, six more go in his pocket.
“And I will not play a round of golf without my American flag in my golf bag,” the former Masters champion told the kids hanging on his every word during a clinic at the Insperity Invitational/Patrick Reed AJGA Junior Championship on Monday at The Woodlands.
After the impromptu applause died down, Reed explained the significance of the flag, which he took, folded into the familiar triangle, out of a deep pocket in his golf bag. It was given to him – and every other member of U.S. Team -- by an inspirational pair of wounded warriors Tom Watson brought in to speak one night at the 2014 Ryder Cup.
“It means so much to me,” said the man they call Captain America.
So does the American Junior Golf Association, which is why Reed and his wife Justine decided to get involved with the tournament in their adopted hometown several years ago. But it’s more than just lending his name; the couple and their Team Reed Foundation have helped plan and execute the event.
Reed, who is playing in the Travelers Championship this week, flew to Texas from Pebble Beach, landing just before a band of strong thunderstorms battered Houston Sunday night. The Junior-Am on Monday had to be canceled as a result, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the volunteers and juniors lining up for selfies and autographs with Reed.
“To get here and to see how happy the kids are, to see how happy the volunteers are and to see just how the energy in this place is, it's so unbelievable and amazing,” Reed said. “… Every one of them is still smiling.
“Everyone was having a great time and that just shows how well and how all that hard work that Justine and our team was able to put into it has allowed the tournament to shape out and still have a good time.”
He also had a surprise for the kids competing in the tournament this week. The boy and girl winners will win a trip to Houston, where they will stay in the Omni Hotel, and get to walk with Reed in the pro-am at the Houston Open, which will be played Oct. 7-13.
“I hope they are ready for it because I will be making them hit a couple of putts maybe or a couple of chips,” said Reed, who announced the opportunity on social media. “… We're going to learn stuff from them. They're going to learn stuff from us, and it's just going to be a great day.”
The tournament raised $140,000 last year, bringing its cumulative total to nearly $500,000. Small wonder, then, that the event has garnered the AJGA’s Charitable Giving Award each year since 2014 while also being named Open Tournament of the Year in 2014 and ’16 and receiving the Junior-Am Fundraising Award in 2016 and ’17.
Reed and his wife also fund an Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) grant to provide financial assistance to allow juniors seeking to play golf in college continue to compete in the AJGA. This year’s ACE winner is Madison DeBruin of Houston.
Reed started playing a full summer schedule of AJGA events when he was 13 years old and competed through 2007. He won one event and posted six top-10s, eventually earning a berth on the East Team in the 2006 Canon Cup (now known as the Wyndham Cup) with Rickie Fowler, Kyle Stanley and Bud Cauley, among others. He also was a Rolex Junior all-American from 2005-07.
Interestingly, Reed’s win came at the AJGA event that former PGA TOUR pro David Gossett hosted in Memphis at TPC Southwind. Aside from how hot and steamy it was, Reed remembers being more nervous shaking Gossett’s hand than standing over the putt he had on the 18th hole to win.
The moment stays with him to this day. And that’s part of the reason he wanted to be at The Woodlands, his home course, on Monday.
“It meant a lot because all of these, all these juniors and kids, their goal -- I probably (should not) say all of them, but I'm pretty sure almost all of them -- their goal is to play college golf and to play professional golf,” Reed said. “And to be able to meet an actual player who is either on the PGA TOUR, LPGA Tour and to realize that they're normal people, we're all just normal people, but when the camera's on you and you're out there playing for and trying to provide for your family and make a living out of it, they see you as a robot and just kind of like zoned in and doing what you're doing.
“They don't get to actually see who you really are. … But once you actually get to meet them off of their job, they're like, oh, they're just normal people. We can enjoy, have fun with them. There's a lot in common. We could talk. I mean, we could do whatever. And that's something that I think was big whenever I met a PGA TOUR player and I hope a lot of these kids realize the same.”
Reed was completely at ease as he emceed the clinic, charming the teenagers with stories about why he doesn’t drink coffee (his hands got shaky putting one morning after having a rare cup of joe), his favorite meal (a tomahawk ribeye) and how he prefers a fountain Coca-Cola rather than one out of a can.
Asked about the five most unusual places the 2018 Masters champion had worn his green jacket, he mentioned forgetting to take if off and going into a Chick-Fil-A after visiting his daughter’s school, as well as donning it at his hometown Houston Rockets and Astros games and at Madison Square Garden.
But even this light-hearted banter had a message.
“I didn’t wear it all the time,” Reed said. “I had it with me all the time, but I used as kind of a motivational piece. Always had it hung every time so when I woke up, I could see it. Every time I got ready, I could see it. Every time I got home, I could see it.
“I used it as a stepping stone rather than as an oh-I-did-it. I said with all the hard work that we’ve done, this is what we can do. So instead of settling, as some guys have done after they won the big one, they settle, I was like I’m going to use this and work hard to get back there again and win it again.
“So, for me it was more motivation, a stepping stone rather than as a trophy.”
Reed remembers the AJGA teaching him how to handle defeat as well as victory “because, you can't be a poor sport when you lose and you can't be a person that gloats and is just like, ‘Look at me,’ when you win,” he says. Golf etiquette and life skills – as simple as the lost art of hand-written thank-you notes – was also part of the learning process.
The most important thing, though, is to work hard – but still enjoy the game.
“Have fun with the game of golf and you know, that nothing is given to you,” Reed said. “You’ve got to go out and earn it. You got to go out play well. You got to go put in the effort, put in the work, put in the desire to win, the will to win, you know, basically got to keep pushing.
“Even when times are tough, push through it. … This is a stepping stone in your career to try to get you to that next level.”
And Reed speaks from experience.