Tesori, family persevere with help of Tour family

PGA Tour caddie, Paul Tesori, and his wife, Michelle, leave the ICU with son, Isaiah.

With very little fanfare, but heartfelt emotions, the last entry into the proceedings at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla., was given a rousing welcome Wednesday afternoon. He may not hold a trophy come Sunday, but Isaiah Paul Tesori has won over hearts at a record pace.

“He’s a little bit of a show-off, to tell the truth,” veteran caddie Paul Tesori said of his son. “But he’ll be making his PGA Tour debut, a ‘Welcome to the World’ party with a bunch of the wives and kids.”

Nine weeks ago, Tesori did not make the trip to Hawaii with his boss, Webb Simpson. There was something far more important than golf; he and his wife, Michelle, were expecting their first child. Given that Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, got into contention at Kapalua with Ted Scott on the bag, Tesori’s absence was a note and got talked about after the first round. Then on Jan. 4, the day of the second round, the questions about his caddie drew somber responses from Simpson, as he reported that there had been complications with the delivery in Jacksonville, Fla.

Thousands of miles separated player and caddie in those trying hours, but the conversations they carried out over the phone were crucial, Tesori said.

“I remember crying with him on the phone, just saying with a heavy voice, ‘Buddy, I know for a fact this is too much to handle. I don’t have it.’ “

Simpson reassured Tesori that he had the strength to carry on, then he called the next night to tell his caddie how many people – fellow competitors, other caddies, PGA Tour officials, wives, parents – had asked about Paul, Michelle and Isaiah.

“Sometimes,” Tesori said, “we forget as competitors and caddies that the PGA Tour is a community.”

Only minutes after his birth, Isaiah was rushed into intensive care and the parents were told that the child had problems with his heart, swelling on the brain and had suffered seizures. Isaiah likely would be hospitalized for two months, they were told.

“The first 36 hours were the longest and most trying days of my life,” Tesori said. “We hadn’t slept (in that time). There was so much fear. We broke down in tears. We were so confused.”

What they were rock-solid about, however, was their faith. Paul and Michelle have an abundance of it and that carried them through. When Paul got to visit Isaiah the next day, “it got a little easier, just seeing him. I said to myself, ‘There he is. He’s our little boy. He’s going to be fine.’ “

The heart problems eased. The swelling on the brain did, too. Isaiah had Down syndrome, but Paul and Michelle quickly discovered that they weren’t alone. Support groups reached out to them, people who knew what their situation was like, and when doctors told the couple that they could take Isaiah home Jan. 11, one week to the day of his birth, there was an overwhelming sense of joy.

“We had our boy home,” Tesori said, “and he’s done nothing but mystify everybody ever since.”

Isaiah has grown at a good rate. The Tesoris have met with foundations and are learning almost on a daily basis of the incredible community that is united in this cause to educate new parents of Down syndrome children and to offer assistance. And as the emails, text messages and calls came in – from Bubba Watson and Brandt Snedeker, Gary Woodland and Keegan Bradlely, Jonathan Byrd and Ben Crane, countless caddies, Tour officials – “each day it got better and better,” Tesori said.

Then there has been Webb Simpson and his wife, Dowd. The mere mention of their names causes Tesori to swell up with emotions; they have provided friendship and strength in so many ways.

“When I first went to work for Webb, he was 213th in the world (rankings) and I’ve heard him say he doesn’t know where he’d be without Pauly. But I laugh that off, because Webb’s taught me more about life than I ever knew. He’s so wise beyond his 28 years. The way Webb and Dowd live their lives, it’s incredible.”

Included in the circle of this story is a truth that runs both ways. Isaiah has brought great joy to Paul and Michelle, yes, but so, too, is he a lucky young man to be embraced by parents who possess the faith and wisdom to know the gift they have received.

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