Tori M., from Hobbs, NM is a HUGE golf fan who had the chance to meet all of her players thanks to the PGA Tour and THE PLAYERS!
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.- As rain drenched the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass a couple of weeks ago, everyone knew, with the Players just around the corner, that there would be brighter days ahead -- a theme in life that has become all-too-familiar for Make-A-Wish VIP Experience recipient Victoria (Tori) Martinez of Hobbs, New Mexico.
The sun did return to TPC Sawgrass and two weeks after laying in a hospital bed who has suffered from Cystic Fibrosis since she was 15, enjoyed it firsthand as she stepped off a plane in Jacksonville Monday with her mother Stacy, father Michael, and brother DeShawn, to begin living out her "VIP experience" with a week at the THE PLAYERS made possible by the PGA TOUR.
Cystic Fibrosis is a chronic disease affecting the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States. For those like Tori fighting the disease, it can mean life-threatening lung infections and multiple hospital stays during the year.
"I'm feeling pretty well right now," said Tori, who also spent a month in the hospital in November 2012. "When my doctor asked me if wanted to try for this experience, I was excited and learned a couple of months ago that I would be going to THE PLAYERS."
On Monday night, after checking into her hotel and dining out, Tori went to the beach and saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in her life. Tuesday she headed to the Stadium Course for her first glimpse of the course she's always admired from afar on TV.
On Wednesday, the experience had just about everything but a "red carpet" as she awoke to a waiting limousine which took her and her family to the TPC Sawgrass, where they would enjoy breakfast and then head to the famous 17th hole. There she received another surprise.
Tiger Woods was the first player to greet her, and kindly signed autographs and posed for pictures as she sat in what felt like a throne inside the ropes among the greatest golfers in the world.
"It just worked out great that Tiger was the first player to come through on 17," said Tori. "I had no idea. That was a good way to start off the day. I also met Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson, two of my favorites, plus Rory McIlroy."
Cap the evening off with a private meet-and-greet with country music superstar Dierks Bentley, and just when she thought the experience couldn't be topped, it was.
"We must have talked for about 10 minutes," said Tori. "He was awesome to me and told me his best friend had Cystic Fibrosis and I immediately connected with him. I listen to country music so I was very excited and had a seat up front near the stage for his concert."
When the competition started Thursday, her first professional golf tournament, Tori zeroed in on another favorite golfer, Adam Scott, and was able to watch the former PLAYERS champion for part of his opening round.
Tori won't get out of Florida just as a spectator. She'll tee it up with her family for a Friday round on Dye's Valley, something she made sure she prepared for before leaving the desert of New Mexico.
"I had a little grind session on the range before I left New Mexico, so I hope I'm ready," she said. "I know I'm excited that the greens here are green. In New Mexico, they're brown. After being in the desert, it will be great to see trees, green and water!"
Currently attending New Mexico Junior College, Tori had been considering a career in psychology working with children. However, after this week's experience, she's now thinking about how much fun it would be to work for an organization like the PGA TOUR.
She's not sure what comes next before leaving town after the tournament on Monday, but there's certain to be a few more surprises in what has been, for Tori, the Make-A-Wish VIP Experience of a lifetime.