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Local champions receive "Dream Day" at The PLAYERS Championship

Five honorees from First Coast-area non-profits were surprised with an all-access day, including Northeast Florida's representative at this summer's USA Games

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When it comes to Special Olympics golf, Jacksonville-resident Amanda Bussey is quickly becoming the gold standard.

The 36-year old first picked up a club 12 years ago at a clinic organized by TPC Sawgrass and The PLAYERS Championship. More than a decade later, Bussey has not only plays nine-hole, alternate shot golf weekly: she will represent Duval County and the state of Florida at the USA Games in June. 

“She really has a knack for it," Amanda's mother, Julie, explained, noting Amanda has amassed a "neck full" of medals throughout her 20-plus years involved with Special Olympics. "She doesn’t think about it as hard as the rest of us, where she stands over the ball and thinks about it. She just goes out there, swings and she’s got a natural talent.”

The USA Games features 4,000 athletes from all over the world, competing in 19 different sports. It is scheduled for an eight-day span this June in Orlando. 

“It’s going to be the largest humanitarian event in Florida’s history. It’s also going to be the biggest USA Games in history," Robin Luck, Amanda's coach, explained. 

"She really deserves it. She works really hard," Amanda's playing partner, Jane Verkouteren, added. "We don’t only play during what they call ‘the season.’ We play year-round. We’re out there one-time a week minimum on the golf course."

But as it turns out: that upcoming honor wasn't the only one the Special Olympics had planned for Bussey. 

On Tuesday, March 1, The PLAYERS assembled a group of five honorees from five different area non-profits; Bussey was the Special Olympics' representative. Once there, they were given their surprise: a "Dream Day" at The PLAYERS Championship. They also were each gifted a brand-new set of clubs. 

A little over a week later on Wednesday, March 9, the Dream Champions sat for more than two hours on 17 tee box, high-fiving and chatting with PGA Tour golfers and their caddies. The golfers gifted them gloves, hats, and more, signing autographs and stopping for photos and conversation. Bussey was especially excited to receive a glove from Masters runner-up Will Zalatoris. After the morning session, the Dream Champions were treated to lunch at the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse and got to sit-in on several interviews in the Media Center. 

For Bussey and her team, it was a joy to be back where it all began.

“It’s a really unique connection with The PLAYERS Amanda has, where she first picked up a golf club at a clinic The PLAYERS put on. And now, it’s back full circle, where she’s getting honored by The PLAYERS and she’s also getting to participate in the USA Games because of what The PLAYERS and The PLAYERS Championship has done for our golf program," Luck explained. 

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The other Dream Champions honored by The PLAYERS Championship:

- Ava Jones, Dreams Come True

- Dominic Clayton, First Tee-North Florida

- Leighmar Wilson, Moore-Myers Children's Fund

- Loxley Greensmith, TC Jay Fund

    

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