Captain Adam Napier, Team 43 golfer and 2021 Warrior Open champion, shares about his experience playing in the 2022 American Century Championship.
Having the chance to play in the 2022 American Century Championship has been one of the best experiences of my life. Getting to caddie at the event in 2019 for fellow Team 43 member Jerry Woods was one of the highlights of my golfing career, but actually getting to play in the tournament and represent Team 43 myself this time was a whole other experience that really took me out of my comfort zone.
Golf has been such an important therapy and recovery for me, and I wanted to use this opportunity to show that. It was very important to me to represent myself, President Bush, my fellow Team 43 members, and the veteran community with my performance. At first, I really did not feel nervous about this at all. I still have never experienced anything in my golfing career that makes me as nervous as that first tee shot at the Warrior Open in front of President Bush. After playing at the American Century Championship, I can say that is still true.
The tournament organizers tested my nerves on my first day at the course as they paired me in my practice round with Justin Timberlake, Adam Thielen, and Larry Fitzgerald. Later that day, I saw that I was paired for the first round of the tournament with the defending champion Vinny Del Negro and three-time champion Mark Mulder – no pressure at all. I was not playing great about halfway through my first round when it started to hit me: It doesn’t matter how I play because I’m already a winner by just being here. The American Century Championship was about way more than just golf. I was doing something that I would have never even imagine doing 15 or 10 years ago in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Throughout the event, I simply did not perform up to the standard that I place on myself. I put in countless hours of practice in the months leading up to the tournament, and I was so excited to get there and compete with all the celebrities at the tournament. As I did through my military career, I set high standards for myself, and it was a bit of a gut punch when I did not reach those goals. You want to perform when you’re on the biggest stage, but sometimes that’s not the end all be all.
On the final day of the tournament, my golf was really going sideways, and I got a pep talk from Jerome Bettis, Super Bowl champion running back and recent Notre Dame graduate. I will remember that for the rest of my life and will use those words in the future when new obstacles arise. Most importantly to me though were the numerous messages, texts, and support that I received from other veterans. They could not care less what my score was. I was one of them and getting to take part in this amazing experience, and in a way, so were they. The other players were so incredibly nice and supportive of not just me but my retired Army 1SG caddie Gary Yeatts.
I want to thank everyone who was a part of making it happen – all the American Century employees, all the NBC personal, and President Bush and the Bush Center. Thank You! Thank you to all my playing competitors who accepted me and treated me like a rock star – Mark Mulder, Adam Theilen, Justin Timberlake, Vinny Del Negro, Jerome Bettis, Brian Urlacher, Jon Lester, Brian McCann, Robert Griffin III, Joe Theismann, Annika Sorenstam, Colin Jost, Miles Teller, Tom Glavine, Mike Vrabel, Tony Romo, Brian Baumgartner, fellow veteran Rob Riggle, and so many others. I cannot describe how great they treated me and made me feel. On deployments we watch these people in movies and in sporting events and it means so much to us, but after this week, I can tell you everything we do in the military really does mean the world to them as well. Even though the week flew by, it is going to stay with me the rest of my life.