How a gesture at the 2016 U.S. Open led to a Christmas gift for a grieving couple
To say Andrew Landry came out of nowhere to contend for the 2016 U.S. Open is to be generous to "nowhere." The Texan had just a dozen PGA Tour appearances to his name, with zero finishes inside the top 40, and started the week at Oakmont No. 624 in the world. So when he found himself atop the leader board heading into the weekend, Landry's agent, Jeff Stacy, knew Landry was in for some serious TV time, and was able to strike a sponsorship deal with Moonshine Sweet Tea. Despite starting Sunday in the final group, Landry ultimately finished T-15 at the U.S. Open. That was no matter to Moonshine, which extended his sponsorship the rest of the season.
Why this matters in 2018? It's how that sponsorship beget a Christmas gift to a grieving couple.
Veteran looper Terry Walker has been on Landry's bag the past two seasons. In an entry for the Caddie Network, Walker writes that Landry gave the Moonshine endorsement money to Josh and Sarah Halter, a couple from Austin, Texas, in July 2016. The Halters' daughter, Austyn, was battling a rare form of leukemia. Prior to Oakmont, Landry had visited St. Jude Hospital in Memphis and was so touched by his experience he vowed to help the battle in any way he could. Aside from his sponsorship money, Landry also started a GoFundMe campaign for the Halters, who hailed from Landry's hometown, that raised $27,000 for the family.
Unfortunately, Austyn passed away in early 2017, barely 4 years old. But Austyn and her family stayed in the hearts of Landry and Walker, and the two promised to continue the fight in her name.
So Walker set up another drive, this time to support the mission at St. Jude, named in Austyn's honor. A Carnival Cruise was rewarded to the group that raised the most money, a prize that went to Landry and Walker. The duo decided the Halters deserved the trip, so they arranged to meet with the family this December at Austyn's grave.
"After some chitchat about the area, Andrew asked me to share with Josh and Sarah why we were there. I told them about the events leading up to the APTC fundraiser for St. Jude," Walker writes. "As embarrassing as it was, I choked up several times just letting them know how often we thought of them and Austyn.
"I told them that we had won the Carnival Cruise for two, but we requested it be put in their names. It’s good for one-year to any destination for any period of time and consists of an oceanview stateroom. I then gave them the envelope with the $2,000 cash to assist them with any additional expenses they may incur on the trip they choose."
The couple also had a gift for Landry and Walker: a pin of Austyn, with the same #AustynStrong phrase that's emblazoned on Landry's tour bag.
"I fully intend on carrying this button in Andrew’s tour bag in every event we play as a reminder of the fact that we play a game, and there are far more important aspects of life than golf," Walker says. And the caddie reminds the audience, it was the best Christmas gift he could have received.
To Donate To St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, click here.