124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

Charles Schwab Challenge

Emiliano Grillo nearly blew a PGA Tour win. What he did next then to make these kids’ day was truly special

A million different thoughts had to be racing through the mind of Emiliano Grillo as he waited to see if his blunder on the 18th hole at the Charles Schwab Challenge would cost him a shot at ending a nearly eight-year victory drought on the PGA Tour. Making a couple young kids’ days likely wasn’t among them. And yet that’s what the 30-year-old from Argentina did, perhaps creating good karma for his eventual victory in a playoff.

Recall just what happened moments earlier. With a two-shot lead after an impressive final round at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Grillo lost his drive on the home hole, hitting his ball into a aqueduct right of the fairway. From there he made double-bogey 6 to finish at eight under for the tournament. And that where Adam Schenk or Harry Hall both sat on the leaderboard playing the 18th hole as well.

So it was that Grillo needed to stay loose in the event of a possible playoff. And to do it, he enlisted the hello of a couple young spectators, Peyton and Sutton, as he was taking a few practice swings on the first tee.

Remember, Grillo had just seen a remarkable final round—which included six birdies to erase an opening four-shot deficit—seemingly go for naught by his poor play on the 18th. He could have been running pretty hot, anxious to see if Schenk or Hall would make birdie and ruin Grillo’s comeback. But to take a few minutes to relax and give these kids a thrill of a lifetime, well, it says something about how he was handling the moment.

“It was a little bit of a trick to get my head out of the situation,” Grillo said afterward. “There’s two kids right next to the first tee, and I’m like, ‘Hey, you guys want to hit balls?’ They’re 7, 8 years old or however old they are. Jose Coceres (a former two-time PGA Tour winner from Argentina) 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.”

When Schenk then made par to force a playoff (Hall bogeyed to miss out), Grillo was not tense or frustrated. And it showed on the second playoff hole when he hit his tee shot on the par-3 16th to 4 feet, 8 inches, setting up his eventual winning birdie. Yes, he got a friendly kick, but could it have been because of his own friendly act?