One long, cascading cheer rolled down the hill from the grandstand behind the eighth green to Meghna Mazumdar.
Holding her follow-through and straining to see up the hill on her tiptoes, the 13-year-old couldn’t see her wedge approach shot catch the slope of the green, which sent the ball closer and closer to the hole.
It stopped about 10 feet from the cup of one of Quail Hollow Club’s toughest greens to earn a rousing cheer from the gallery and kudos from Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am partner, Rory McIlroy.
“Nice shot,” McIlroy said, picking up the ball and conceding Meghna’s “gimme” putt for par.
That moment proved Meghna’s golf highlight of the day May 4 as she became the youngest amateur player in history at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina. Meghna’s experience came courtesy of winning the 2016 grand prize in Wells Fargo’s Succeeding TogetherSM essay contest.
“I didn’t realize how good my shot at No. 8 was until everyone around the green started cheering,” Meghna said.
Wells Fargo created the contest as part of its Succeeding Together program for the more than 30,000 teenage participants of The First Tee®, a youth development program with about 170 chapters across the U.S. that Wells Fargo supports financially and through volunteerism. Wells Fargo deepened its commitment to The First Tee in April 2015 by becoming one of its national trustees and agreeing to provide $1 million to the nonprofit through 2020.
As the grand prize winner from more than 100 entrants, Meghna, a member of The First Tee of Connecticut, said her experience with McIlroy was all she imagined it would be, and more.
“One of my golf coaches back home told me to have fun and learn something, and I think I did both today,” she said.
“For one, I’ve become better at media interviews,” Meghna joked, “and I picked up some great tips from Rory along the way. He analyzed my swing, and I will be working on closing my club face more because he noticed I’m leaving the club head open at impact a lot, and that’s making my shots go left. He’s amazing and such a gracious person and did everything he could to help me feel at ease.”
McIlroy a favorite
Meghna is the third consecutive essay contest winner to pick McIlroy as their PGA Tour playing partner for the pro-am round.
“I don’t know why the kids keep picking me but know I like playing with them,” McIlroy said afterward. “It’s way better than your typical pro-am.”
On his 27th birthday, McIlroy said of his time with Meghna: “Meghna is impressive and handled herself very well out there. I know if I was 13 and coming into this environment I’d be a little nervous, so I was just trying to get her to relax as much as possible. I think she had a good time and hit a few really good shots she’ll remember forever, and that’s all that matters.
“For me, it’s a cool experience to be able to give someone like Meghna a day like this.”
“I picked up some great tips from Rory along the way.”
Meghna won the essay contest by writing about the importance of having, and being a part of, a “Go-To Team.” Read her essay on the Succeeding Together website.
Throughout her pro-am round, key members of Meghna’s Go-To Team frequently walked the fairways with her hand in hand: her dad, Manu, and mom, Ruki.
Another Go-To Team member walking with her and guiding her was caddie Mark Moriarty, program director of The First Tee of Connecticut. He carried a special hot pink golf bag the chapter created for Meghna’s round with McIlroy. Wells Fargo added a matching hot pink golf shirt to complete the ensemble.
Joining Meghna in Charlotte were the three first-prize winners in the essay contest — Arthi Chandra, 14, from The First Tee of Silicon Valley (California); Derrick Ow, 18, from The First Tee of Monterey County (California); and Janane Tan, 16, from The First Tee of Greater Dallas — all who also earned trips to Charlotte.
Grace Vaughan of Chesnee, South Carolina, and the 2015 contest winner returned to cheer Meghna on throughout her round.
“I would have never even dreamed or imagined that this day would be possible,” Meghna said, “and it’s all thanks to my family and everyone who supported me, led me in the right direction, and set me on the path to success.”