The email admittedly was a shot in the dark. But you never know until you ask, right? And it was Christmas Eve, after all. So, Charles Penny II decided to reach out to Grindworks, the Japanese company that makes the irons Patrick Reed plays, to see if it offered any kind of a discount for aspiring pros like himself. Turns out, the manufacturer did. But Penny, who had admired the irons since the former Masters champ put them into play at the 2019 Hero World Challenge, wouldn‚Äôt need any sort of discount after all. Not after Grindworks shared Penny‚Äôs letter directly with Reed. The one where he talked about working for First Tee for seven years while refining his own skills as a golfer. And how he‚Äôs a part of the African American Tour Quest, the player development program of The Pinkney Foundation. And of course, how Penny hopes his experience on the mini-tours helps him realize his dream of playing on the PGA TOUR someday. Let‚Äôs just say, his words resonated with Reed, who defends his title this week at the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession. ‚ÄúI read his email about him as a person, as well as what his dreams and ambitions are in golf and how hard he’s working on it and his goals,‚ÄĚ Reed says. ‚ÄúAnd when I sat back and actually read all the stuff that he was saying and all the things that he was trying to get to and his goals and ambitions, I was like, man, this is somebody I would love to try to help out.‚ÄĚ So, Reed told the folks he works with at Grindworks that he would pay for Penny‚Äôs clubs. And two weeks ago, the Texan went even further when he called Penny and invited him to be his guest on Tuesday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. It‚Äôs the day after Penny‚Äôs 32nd birthday. ‚ÄúIf he has time, we may take him out and grab a bite to eat or something like that,‚ÄĚ Reed says. ‚ÄúTalking about stuff, not just golf, but talking about stuff other than golf because just from the email train back and forth he seems like an amazing guy and I’d love to get to know him.‚ÄĚ Reed‚Äôs phone call to Penny already set that tone, although the recent winner of the Farmers Insurance Open did give the North Carolinian a drill to help eliminate those pesky shots that want to veer left. No doubt the tip came in handy last weekend as Penny made his debut on the Advocates Professional Golf Association, a non-profit dedicated to bringing more diversity to the game. ‚ÄúTo be honest, I think we talked about golf maybe five minutes,‚ÄĚ Penny recalls. ‚ÄúEverything else was about family.‚ÄĚ To say Penny was thrilled when he got the word on Dec. 30 that Reed was giving him a set of his signature irons might be an understatement. In fact, he rushed into the other room and interrupted the virtual Bible study class his wife LaTonya was conducting. ‚ÄúI teared up and part of the reason is like you’re at this point where you really want something and you’re working your tail off,‚ÄĚ Penney says. ‚Äú… I was like, honey, I‚Äôve got to share this testimony with the people. And that’s when I shared with her church, the people that watch her virtual Bible studies, that Patrick Reed and his foundation were going to send me the set of irons. I was just overjoyed, really. To put it in words, I guess incredulity would be the word of the state I was feeling — like it was happening, but I just couldn’t believe it. Instantly, the computer screen full of all those faces in little boxes we‚Äôve all come to know in these days of COVID-19 filled with thumbs up and hands making the sign of a heart. And several days later, while Penny was at the funeral of one of his wife‚Äôs parishioners, some of the same people kept asking him if he‚Äôd gotten the clubs yet. ‚ÄúI said not yet,‚ÄĚ Penny recalls. ‚ÄúThey’re on the way, though. And they were just saying, that was really nice of Patrick Reed and they don’t even know who he is. I am their connection to the golf. And so, they were like, well, that was really nice for that young man. ‚ÄúAnd so, I was like, yeah, I said he’s been one of my favorite or top golfers to keep track of. But I said this was really mind blowing.‚ÄĚ After he shared news of Reed‚Äôs kind gift on social media recently, Penny also got some other good news ‚Äď this time from a member of his extended family. His mother posted the video on Facebook, and her cousin, who lives in the New York area, shared it with her brother, Sharad Madison. Madison, who is a member of the Advisory Board for THE NORTHERN TRUST, congratulated Penny, who reached out to say thank you. That‚Äôs when Madison, who had met Penny once at a great aunt‚Äôs memorial service, said he was sending a check to cover his APGA entrance fees. ‚ÄúWhen it happened, my wife probably thought I was crazy because I was like, I yelled, ‚ÄėOh my God,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Penny recalls. ‚ÄúI was just sitting there looking at her with wide eyes and she said tell me what is going on. ‚Äú…And I said, he just gave me a sponsorship check to take care of the cost of all the tournaments. And I was just like, that’s crazy. And she said, no, let’s change that word. And she said, that is God. And I was like, yeah, I said, but give me a second. That’s crazy.‚ÄĚ Penny, who was in Reed‚Äôs gallery last year at Bay Hill as well as several times at the Wyndham Championship, has been a fan since he won the 2014 World Golf Championships event at Doral. He liked the confidence Reed showed when he talked about how he thought he was a top-five player in the world. ‚ÄúHis press conference was a disruptor for the golf world,‚ÄĚ Penny says. ‚Äú… I didn’t take it as arrogant. I didn’t take it as him being above himself. I took it as a person who has been dedicating his life to a game saying, I feel like I’m ready to compete, not just for this one tournament for, but for the tournaments to come. And that shows through his resume including being a Masters champion. ‚ÄúAnd that was that moment is where I was like, I’m going to watch out for this guy.‚ÄĚ Penny started playing golf in 1998 when his late uncle Ellis Allen Jr., who was a ‚Äúbig-time golfer,‚ÄĚ his nephew says, talked his parents into giving the then 9-year-old a set of clubs. He played recreationally with his dad but track and field grabbed his attention in high school in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Penny was a triple, long and high jumper at Pembroke State before an injury cut his career short. After he left school, Penny started working as a youth pastor in Greensboro, North Carolina. One day, Anthony Carstarphen, the golf coach at Fayetteville State, saw him hitting balls at the range and offered him a scholarship on the spot. Penny, who was 25 at the time, stayed at Fayetteville State for a semester before he realized he was at a different stage in life than his 18-year-old teammates. Plus, he was offered a job with First Tee, where he has continued to work for the last seven years. As much as Reed was impressed by the personal drive and determination that came through in the letter, Penny‚Äôs work to teach youngsters life skills while learning the game also resonated with him. Reed hosts an annual American Junior Golf Association event in Houston in June. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs the same kind of thing that I’m trying to do through AJGA and through our foundation is not only grow the game of golf, but also teach a lot of things that will help off the golf course, whether it’s in business, whether it’s how you treat people or just how you carry yourself, that will better them along their way as they get older,‚ÄĚ Reed says. Reed says he looks forward to putting a name to a face next week. And the man who Monday qualified six times in 2012 the year before he got his TOUR card will talk to Penny about the challenge and the tiny details that separate the best players. He‚Äôll also tell him to embrace and enjoy the journey. In Penny, who works in customer service at Parsons Extreme Golf, Reed will find a sponge, anxious to soak up all that wisdom. But he does have one thing he plans to ask. ‚ÄúI know the question that I ‘ll ask probably that’d be like one of my first questions after the nerves settle is how did it feel to put on a Green Jacket?‚ÄĚ says Penny, whose parents attended their first Masters the year Reed won. That‚Äôs one Reed will undoubtedly be happy to answer.
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