(Reuters) – Golfers got the chance to honour Kobe Bryant at the Phoenix Open’s iconic par-three 16th hole on Thursday, with Justin Thomas and Tony Finau among those donning jerseys bearing the basketball great’s number.
Bryant died along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed in foggy weather on a hillside northwest of Los Angeles on Sunday.
Finau donned Bryant’s number eight yellow and purple Los Angeles Lakers jersey and wore shoes of the same colours.
“Tony, Tony, Tony,” the gallery at the stadium hole chanted as Finau hit his shot.
Finau, who shot a two-under-par 69, said he had been “very inspired” by Bryant growing up.
“I remember growing up watching and I would always (ask) what time are the Lakers playing?” Finau told reporters.
“And Kobe was always going to do something special, it seemed like. So when he retired, I feel like I lost a part of my life.
“I only own one NBA jersey, so (that) gives you an idea of how much Kobe meant to me and just being a Laker fan in general. So I brought it out on 16 and that was quite fun.”
Max Homa also wore a Lakers jersey, number 24, the other number Bryant played in during his storied two-decade career.
Thomas opted for something a little different, a red and white jersey of Bryant’s former Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia.
“There’s only one tournament all year you can put a jersey on and hit a shot and the timing worked out to be here, so it was a no-brainer for me,” said the world number four after shooting a 68 to trail leader Wyndham Clark by seven shots.
“I’ve had it for probably four or five years.
“I have a lot of jerseys. It’s always been one of my favorite because Kobe has always been my favorite and not many people have a Lower Merion jersey. A true fan knows what it actually is.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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