By Alex Gallagher
Sam Gullion has always had a love of golf.
His father, Joey, was a pro who played on the PGA tour in 2001, and he has found golf to be somewhat of a coping mechanism.
Sam, 19, was born with a rare and congenital heart condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning he was born with half a heart.
“When I was 5 days old, I had my first surgery, and then I progressively had two more surgeries by the time I was 3 years old. I have not had anything major ever since,” Sam says.
Though he has not had any surgeries since he was young, he had to fight through being behind on his development.
His grandfather, Joe Gullion, described how when Sam was young, he did not like golf because he was small as a child. He also explained that Sam had just begun growing in the past year by growing a foot.
Despite his dad’s pro status, as Sam got older, he wanted to learn the game of golf from his dad’s original teacher — his grandfather.
Joe described teaching Sam as being a bit of a struggle at first due to him sometimes being stubborn, like most teenagers are.
It was when he gave his grandson an ultimatum to be nice to him or he would pack up their clubs and they would leave that ignited Sam’s drive to improve his game.
Since then, the two have played golf together 12 to 14 times a year.
“I love teaching him, and I love spending time with him,” Joe says. “He’s become my best golf buddy.”
In high school, Sam discovered that the game would be a good way for him to get involved.
“When I was a freshman in high school, I was trying to decide what I wanted to do and how to stay involved,” Sam says. “I chose golf because the game is more of a skill-based game than a game of physical abilities, which gave me more of a level playing field.”
Golf has served as more than a sport for Sam, as he feels the game has taught him about life.
“I take golf as a metaphor for life. There are a lot of things in the sport that you can apply to life,” Sam says. “You can hit good shots and get bad breaks, but you can also hit bad shots and get good breaks, such as in life where oftentimes it’s the luck of the draw what you get.”
As a Make-A-Wish Kid, Sam had two wishes.
His first was to play at Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts The Masters every year.
Plans were made for him and his grandfather Joe to go play there, but then the course was closed when COVID-19 shutdowns were implemented.
From there, the Make-A-Wish Foundation made Sam’s second wish come true — to get a new set of PXG golf clubs.
“All I wished for was a set of PXG golf clubs, and I got a whole lot more,” Sam exclaims.
Sam was fitted for a full set of custom clubs and then surprised with the opportunity to get a new polo and hat from PXG’s factory store and to play at Scottsdale National Golf Club for two days.
“It’s a special experience to stay on the course with my grandfather and be able to play golf for two days, and it’s a very nice course,” Sam says.
Sam and Joe played all three of Scottsdale National Golf Club’s courses over two days, and on the first day they were joined by one of the golf pros.
Sam also received a special video message from several of PXG’s pros on the PGA Tour, including Jason Kokrak and Zach Johnson.
“It was really cool when Jason Kokrak spoke to me. He just won a few weeks ago, and it’s cool that these people know who I am and that they’re thinking about me,” Sam says.
Sam said he is thankful for all that PXG and the Make-A-Wish Foundation have done for him. He’s most grateful to share the experience with his mentor.
“I’m more thankful than anything that I got to come out here with my grandpa,” Sam says.
Sam is not the only one who has had a wish come true.
“They told me he was going to die, and his prognosis wasn’t good,” Joe says while holding back tears.
He says that just by seeing his grandson live, he “gets to see his wish every day.”