Ellie Sand got a close-up look of the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee when her older sister, Emma Sand, was selected and played in the annual PGA Tour Champions event on the Monterey Peninsula in 2017.
Ellie Sand remembers telling herself at the time that this is something she wanted to strive to attain one day.
“I watched my sister participate in this tournament four years ago and how she said, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ ” Ellie said. “My sister is a really good golfer. I just had fun watching her. It was awesome. I knew that if she could do it, then I could probably do it, too. It inspired me a lot.”
In July, Ellie Sand was notified of her selection to represent First Tee – Greater Sacramento and play in this year’s PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee. Hosted by the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and now in its 18th year, the event is Sept. 20-26 at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course and will be carried by Golf Channel.
The announcement of the 81 First Tee participants, who were selected to play in the 2021 event, was made by First Tee and PGA Tour Champions. The juniors are from First Tee chapters across the country.
“I’m really excited for this. I’ve been looking forward to this for years,” said Ellie Sand.
Ellie Sand, a recent graduate of Oak Ridge High School and a resident of El Dorado Hills, went through the application process, which requires writing essays and being interviewed.
She started with First Tee ─ Greater Sacramento 11 years ago, at the age of 7.
“During that time, she has volunteered over 125 hours with our chapter, reached the Eagle Certification in her life skills, and been a member of our Junior Life Skills Coaching Committee,” said Angie Dixon, Executive Director of First Tee ─ Greater Sacramento.
“Ellie’s favorite core value is Perseverance and outside of golf she enjoys playing the piano.”
Ellie Sand has played competitive junior golf on several tours, including First Tee – Greater Sacramento Junior Tour, Junior Golf Association of Northern California, Junior Tour of Northern California, and the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour.
She has also played on the girl’s golf team at Oak Ridge High. Ellie Sand has had the time of her life as a member of First Tee ─ Greater Sacramento.
“It’s a part of my life now. I‘ve been doing this for a long time,” she said. “It’s more than just golf. It’s about meeting new people and making friends, learning about life skills and core values as well. That’s what the First Tee is all about.
“I wasn’t the best golfer when I started out, but I‘ve improved throughout the years. Obviously, these tournaments have really helped me improve my golf game now. It’s part of my everyday life,” she said.
She plays out of Cameron Park Country Club and works with Tim Berg, a PGA golf professional who is at the Bing Maloney Golf Complex in Sacramento.
Later this month, she will join juniors, ages 15 to 19, in the PGA Tour Champions event. According to the tournament’s website, www.pureinsurancechampionship.com:
“Throughout the week the teens apply the life and leadership skills learned from First Tee programs during the one-of-a-kind event where they are paired with a PGA Tour Champions player and amateurs from the business world.
“More than 1,000 teens from First Tee have played in the PURE Insurance Championship, experiencing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet, play, and be mentored by PGA Tour Champions players and amateurs in the field.”
The participants, who represent 48 First Tee chapters, were selected by a national panel of judges based on their personal growth and life skills learned through First Tee’s programs, as well as their playing ability, according to the website.
First Tee juniors will play for the Pro-Junior Team title.
Also in the field, from First Tee ─ Greater Sacramento, are:
- Nikki Chindavong, a junior at Rodriguez High School in Cordelia.
- Hannah Harrison, a senior at Granite Bay High School.
- Ethan Lu, a recent graduate of John F. Kennedy High School. He will attend UC Davis starting this month and major in biochemistry.
- Haley Wong, a junior at Oak Ridge High School.
The tournament’s first two rounds are played at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course. Twenty-three juniors advance to the final round at Pebble Beach.
The mission of First Tee, according to www.firstteesacramento.org:
“To impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values, and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.” Ellie Sand’s family will be on hand to watch her play.
Emma Sand played with Tom Watson at the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee.
Watson is a 39-time winner on the PGA Tour and a 14-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions.
Top finishes in junior golf
Ellie Sand has a win and a second-place finish in junior golf this summer.
She won the girl’s 15-18 division of the David Oxley Memorial at Diamond Oaks in June. She posted a 3-over-par 75 at Diamond Oaks Golf Course in Roseville.
She had a 78 and was second in the Catta Verdera Country Club Junior Tournament in July in Lincoln.
Both were First Tee – Greater Sacramento Junior Tour events.
Heading to Santa Clara University
Ellie Sand will start college and will play on the women’s golf team at Santa Clara University beginning this month. She will major in computer science.
She will receive a combined academic-athletic scholarship. Her first week will be a little hectic, as she will be in classes for only two days before heading to Monterey.
“I’m glad I got into Santa Clara. The team is going to be really big. We have eight incoming freshmen, including me. I’m happy to be part of the team,” she said.
Emma Sand will be starting her senior year at Santa Clara and is majoring in economics.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.