As the birds chirped from the stately oaks surrounding the golf course, Shahbaz Hashmi, 17, stood on the 11th tee at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. He eyed the ball on the tee, tilting his head slightly to look down the fairway. He could see the bunkers guarding the inside of the dogleg of the par-4.
When Hashmi looked down at his ball again, he started his swing.
The sound of driver against ball broke the calm. Hashmi’s shot soared into blue skies and appeared to go over the bunkers and cut the corner. (He’d find out later that it caught the lip of the last bunker and rolled back in.)
Taking in the sight was Tiger Woods — the PGA Tour pro Hashmi had chosen to play with Wednesday in the Wells Fargo Championship pro-am — and Hashmi’s dad, Ahmed Hashmi.
The obvious pride in the father’s eyes reminded Woods of his days on the links with his own late father, Earl.
And so Woods leaned in to share one of his dad’s tips.
“Tiger told me, ‘One thing my dad always told me was when you have the driver in your hand, you can swing as hard as you can as long as you hit the ball center face and hold your finish,’” Shahbaz said. “For the rest of my round, I tried to remember that, and held my finish and followed through, and I think I drove it pretty well.”
Hashmi got to play Quail Hollow Club with Woods (the foursome also included amateurs Gregg Hendrix and Scott Lampe) as the grand prizewinner of Wells Fargo and The First Tee’s Succeeding TogetherSM essay contest for participants of the The First Tee® youth sports organization. He’s president of the junior advisory board of The First Tee of Greater San Antonio.
Hashmi is the sixth Succeeding TogetherSM contest winner to earn the honor, but the first to play with Woods, who won the Wells Fargo Championship in 2007 but had not played in the tournament since 2012.
Their pro-am team finished at 15 under (tied for best score with the team led by PGA Tour golfer Bryson DeChambeau) — and ended up the overall winner based on both team’s scores on the scorecard playoff holes. Hashmi added to Team Woods’ red numbers with birdies on the par-4 second and eighth holes. He also recorded seven pars on the back nine, including a par-par-par finish on “The Green Mile” (the finishing trio of holes considered one of the toughest on the PGA Tour).
Woods shot a 6-under-par round of 65 (33-32=65), while Hashmi finished at 10-over-par (42-39=81).
His first birdie came on the par-4 second hole, when he hit a 7-iron shot from 156 yards away to a few feet and made the putt. On the par-4 8th hole, he came close to driving the green.
“I had some very nice birdies early on,” Hashmi said. “On No. 8, I hit a driver and was 43 yards from the green, flipped a little wedge in there and put some spin on it — and it checked off the slope to about three feet and I made the putt. I also was pleased I made three pars coming in to finish out The Green Mile, and to follow pars on 12 through 15.”
“Mr. Woods was really, really a joy to play with,” Hashmi said. “He’s been my golf idol growing up, and for Wells Fargo and The First Tee to give me this opportunity to play with him and realize a dream was incredible. His receptiveness and the kindness and how he took interest in what my dad and I talked to him about shows he’s not just a great golfer but an incredible guy.”
Woods called Hashmi a “shining example” of the kinds of people produced by The First Tee. The nonprofit, which administers the Succeeding TogetherSM contest for Wells Fargo, uses golf to build character through the Nine Core Values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment.
“Shahbaz is certainly deserving of all the accolades,” Woods told a throng of reporters after the Pro-Am round. “He’s done well in school, and is an incredible person. He hit it well, and he putted well. This is not an easy golf course. It’s a very hard golf course, and I think he did really wonderful. It was exciting to see him out there with his dad. You can tell that they’re very close to one another, and that’s something that was fun to see.”
Asked about Hashmi’s best shots, Woods added, “The drives he hit were penetrating, solid – especially as the wind came up. The drive down 18 — the pike — those are shots he’ll remember, as well as some of the little spinners he hit around the green, too. And he made a few putts. He had two birdies today, and it was really good play.”
Seeing Woods up close, Hashmi said he was impressed with the steady tempo of his golf swing and his golf eye, whether reading greens or eyeing the best angles on each hole to attack the pins and plan his shots. As a member of the Alamo Heights High School Golf Team, Hashmi said his round with Woods wasn’t his first time playing with professional golfers.
But he said those previous rounds — in pro-ams at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio and Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach (now the Pure Insurance Championship) in California — weren’t like playing with Tiger Woods and before his large gallery of fans.
During their round together, Hashmi met and shook hands with PGA Tour pro Rickie Fowler, stopped to sign a few autographs, and heard fans yell out “Good job, Shahbaz,” “Knock it in, Shahbaz,” and from Woods after one of Hashmi’s birdies, “Good three!”
“I tried to prepare by being mentally serene going into it, but last night, it was very tough to sleep,” Hashmi said. “This morning, adrenaline and excitement took over and my first tee shot was pretty good, and the start of the round was pretty good, so I couldn’t complain about how it went from there.”
Woods did his part to help Hashmi get off to a good start in his first Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am — and to cap his day. After the announcer called Hashmi’s name and he prepared to hit his first shot of the day, Woods gave him a pat on the shoulder, a smile, and some encouragement before backing away to give him room to tee off: “Let’s go, big guy!”
After his drive on the 18th hole left him with only a short iron to the green, Hashmi reached in his bag for a 9-iron because of the wind but Woods suggested he hit a pitching wedge instead. Hashmi did just that and knocked it close.
“I just wish I had made the six-foot putt,” he said. “I’m still in a little bit of a state of shock that I played golf with Tiger Woods but, for the most part, I’m satisfied with how I held it together.”