The week starting Monday, September 20 is big for Ethan Lu.
Lu is starting his freshman year of college as a biochemistry major at UC Davis.
He is also representing First Tee – Greater Sacramento in a PGA Tour Champions event, the 2021 PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee, on the Monterey Peninsula.
Lu, a recent graduate of John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento, was one of 81 First Tee members, ages from 15 to 19, from around the country who were selected for the annual event, which is hosted by the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and televised by Golf Channel.
He was notified of his selection in July in an announcement by First Tee and PGA Tour Champions.
“I think it will be a great experience, seeing all these people and making some new connections as well,” said Lu, 17.
“I’ve been practicing as much as I can. I hope to just play well.”
Now in its 18th year, the event is Sept. 20-26 at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course on the Monterey Peninsula. Juniors from First Tee chapters, which includes First Tee – Greater Sacramento, are paired with a PGA Tour Champions player and amateurs from the business world, according to a report at www.pureinsurancechampionship.com.
First Tee participants will also compete for the Pro-Junior Team title, according to www.pureinsurancechampionship.com.
The announcement of the field of junior players, which also includes Nikki Chindavong, Hannah Harrison, Ellie Sand, and Haley Wong from First Tee – Greater Sacramento, was also carried by Golf Channel on its “Golf Today” show. In a report, at 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.
“The teens represent 48 First Tee chapters from across the country and for the first time, a participant from First Tee – Morocco will be in the field. Participants 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.”
First- and second-round play will be held at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course. The low 23 First Tee juniors will then advance to the final round at Pebble Beach Golf Links. The tournament will crown one male and one female First Tee junior champion, the report at www.pureinsurancechampionship.com said.
“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 report at www.pureinsurancechampionship.com said. According to www.pureinsurancechampionship.com:
“First Tee is a youth development organization that teaches life skills and helps kids and teens build their strength of character through golf. The PURE Insurance Championship is one of several national opportunities provided by First Tee Headquarters to encourage and motivate participants as they progress through the program and toward higher education opportunities.”
The mission of First Tee, according to www.firstteesacramento.org, is 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. First Tee, according to www.firstteesacramento.org, started as a way to bring an affordable junior golf program to youth and communities that did not have them.
“What First Tee soon discovered was that blending the rules of the game with life and leadership skills, kids and teens didn’t just learn how to putt – they were learning important values.”
In a report, at www.pureinsurancechampionship.com, Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO, said:
“Congratulations to the 81 participants who have been selected to play and represent First Tee on a national stage. We are proud to welcome a participant from First Tee – Morocco into the field this year who is joining the other teens in earning this opportunity through hard work and commitment to academic and personal growth through our programs. Thank you to our partners – PURE Insurance, PGA Tour Champions, Pebble Beach Resorts, Monterey Peninsula Foundation, and Golf Channel – for their commitment to young people and helping us provide this opportunity to these deserving teens.”
Background in junior golf
Lu has been a member of First Tee – Greater Sacramento for 13 years, beginning in the chapter’s programs at the age of 5.
“During that time, in addition to his participation and earning Ace level in his life skills, Ethan volunteered over 400 hours with our chapter as a junior coach and represented our chapter at the 2019 Life Skills & Leadership Academy,” said Angie Dixon, Executive Director.
“Ethan was recently awarded the 2021 Community First Award for his dedication to his community involvement. Outside of golf, Ethan enjoys biking, camping, and hiking.”
Lu said he has learned to love the game of golf through his years and experiences with First Tee.
“I also created a lot of relationships with other people. I’ve made a ton of friends and met a lot of people throughout the country.”
Lu has been to leadership academies with First Tee in Boise, Idaho, and Pebble Beach. He was selected for the First Tee National Championship, June 20-25, at The Walker Course at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. Playing in the boy’s division, consisting of participants ages 14-19, he finished 20th, shooting 76-81-81 – 238.
Lu plays out of the Bing Maloney Golf Complex in Sacramento.
“I’m hitting the ball pretty well. My iron game is pretty solid. I just need to work on my putting, which is usually the weakness in the game,” he said. “By the time the tournament rolls around, I hope my putting becomes a lot better.”
Lu has played competitive junior tournament golf since 2013. He plays in First Tee – Greater Sacramento Junior Tour, Junior Golf Association of Northern California, and Junior Tour of Northern California events.
He has had solid finishes this year at:
- Jan. 4-5, JGANC, tied for fourth place, New Year’s Spring Junior, Castlewood Country Club Valley Course in Pleasanton and San Ramon Golf Club, 79-78 – 157.
- Feb. 14-15, seventh place, JGANC Folds of Honor Junior Championship, Rancho Murieta Country Club North and South courses, 74-83 – 157.
- March 30-31, tied for sixth place, 71st Sacramento City Junior Easter Tournament, Bing Maloney Golf Complex, 73-77 – 150.
- March 20-21, tied for 22nd in boys championship, JTNC Spring Series I, Stockton Golf and Country Club and Elkhorn Golf Club, 76-77 – 153.
- August 28, tied for 22nd, JGANC, State Fair Junior, at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, Alister MacKenzie Golf Course, Sacramento, 76.
- May 15, tied for 11th, First Tee – Greater Sacramento, Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, Optimist qualifier, Alister MacKenzie Golf Course, Sacramento, 77.
- July 14, tied for 11th, First Tee – Greater Sacramento, Peachtree Golf & Country Club, Marysville, 78.
Lu will end his junior career by playing in the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee. He calls it the grand finale of his junior career.
“I am incredibly excited that they chose me to play. I hope to play well,” he said.
Golf is a game that excites and challenges Lu.
“I’m always motivated to try and get better. I feel like I can take from what I have learned from trying to get better in golf and apply it to other parts of my life.”
* 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.