Uncomfortable, he adjusted his grip. His solution, quite literally, changed his life single-handedly.
“It was a moment (that) just came out of nowhere,” Paul-Gindiri told CNN. “I held it in one hand and it felt really comfortable and waggly. I was like ‘Wait a minute, let me try this.’
“Now that I think of it, I’m like, ‘what made me do that?’ It’s God. God blessed me with a talent that just came out of nowhere.”
Rotating the club above his head, Paul-Gindiri stepped up to the tee and crushed a devastating drive into the Arizona night sky. Cue dropped jaws among onlooking friends at the driving range, including the one who had just captured the moment on camera.
The next morning, he woke to the buzzing of a phone lighting up with notifications. Overnight, the video had surged to 1.5 million views.
That was February 2021. A year and half later, Paul-Gindiri is a certified TikTok sensation putting up engagement numbers as eye-watering as his one-handed swing.
With 1.9 million followers and over half a billion views, the 22-year-old has posted viral hit after viral hit with increasingly audacious and creative variations of his unorthodox technique.
“I think it’s just the uniqueness of it and it being something new to golf,” Paul-Gindiri said. “You’re seeing the same stuff over and over again, it gets boring. So once people saw it, they were like, ‘what the hell?’. They’ve never seen anything like that.”
“It was awesome,” said Paul-Gindiri, who coached McDonald to an impressive one-handed attempt. “Really nice guy, we had a blast.”
Meeting the real-life Happy, Sandler, remains on the bucket list, not least so Paul-Gindiri can thank his namesake for the iconic run-up which has increased the distance of his shots. Averaging 250 yards, his best-ever one-handed strike flew 330 yards, he said.
That average sits a mere 50 yards below the 299.6-yard average on the PGA Tour this season, as Cameron Champ leads the way with 321.4 yards.
“They were trying to figure out how I do it,” he added. “I’ve met a couple of PGA Tour players and they just tell me what I do is crazy sick, and I should just keep doing what I’m doing.”
Incredibly, Paul-Gindiri even used to putt-one handed, though he has since switched to the conventional two-handed hold as he seeks to master both grips and improve upon his personal-best 76 round, achieved completely one-handed. That edges his current two-handed best — a six-over 77 carded last week — by a stroke.
Yet the social media star has his sights set on targets beyond the fairway. A keen footballer and a long-suffering Manchester United fan, Paul-Gindiri dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Having left his family in Nigeria to move on his own to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2017, Paul-Gindiri played for Contra Costa College for two years. A foray into the semi-professional game was cut short by the pandemic and soccer pursuits were slowed upon a move to Arizona, but he is determined to pick up where he left off this year.
And while he may not have any tricks up his sleeve as unorthodox as a one-handed swing, his sporting flexibility extends to the football pitch.
“I’m really good with both feet,” he said. “People don’t know if I’m left-footed or right-footed, so I guess that’s my little go-to thing.”
Yet even as he juggles these aspirations with college, his maverick commitments to golf look set to continue. A year and a half on from that fateful evening at the range, Paul-Gindiri is as determined as ever to inspire people to take up the game, especially those for whom the conventional swing may be difficult to replicate — such as amputees or people with disabilities, he said.
“There’s a lot of people … that think they can’t golf and seeing what I do just brings a whole different perspective to the game,” he said. “Not only that, I’m bringing people who would never have had interest in golf. They saw what I do and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is really cool, I actually want to give it a shot.’
“If I never went to the range that night, I wouldn’t be who I am today, so that keeps me going and makes me happy.”