Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 was a very special day for Angie Dixon.
Dixon, the Executive Director of First Tee – Greater Sacramento, was presented with the Golden State Award by the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. The event was held in Sacramento, at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, a place where Dixon started out in the game by participating in Little Linkers, a program for youths ages 7 to 12.
From there, she qualified and played varsity high school golf at El Camino in Sacramento, a boys’ team sport since girls’ team golf had not yet been offered by the California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for prep sports in the state. Dixon then went on to play college golf on a full-ride scholarship at the University of Washington, where she won an individual tournament title at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis, Oregon, and was named second-team Pac-12 All-Academic in both 1992 and ’93.
She turned professional after college and played on the LPGA Futures Tour and also worked as an instructor.
Dixon went to work for First Tee – Greater Sacramento in 2001 as a program manager. She took over as the organization’s Executive Director in 2011, “bringing a wealth of experience from the program side to her role,” according to her bio at www.firstteesacramento.org.
“Her areas of expertise are communication, organization, public speaking, strategic planning, event planning, financial oversight, board education and accountability,” the bio added.
Dixon said the Golden State Award is something that she shares with everyone at First Tee – Greater Sacramento, which involves over 58,000 youths, ages 3 to 18, from throughout the area each year.
“It definitely is validating, just to know that someone is recognizing the great work of the program and what we do,” said Dixon. “I think for me, it’s just been 20 years of getting up and doing what I enjoy each day, working with young people and with the programs and our board of directors, our staff, and our team.
“Yes, it’s just what I do. But to have someone kind of recognize that and say what an impact it’s made, it was definitely validating and rewarding. I was definitely quite honored by it.”
It’s the second time that Dixon has been honored by the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. As a senior in high school, she received an award from the organization during the week of the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at The Inn at Spanish Bay.
Golf has been a lifetime game for Dixon
Dixon, herself, is a product of First Tee – Greater Sacramento. The organization that she started out at in 1983 as a junior with Little Linkers at Haggin Oaks was known as the Sacramento Area Youth Golf Association, founded by Ken Morton, Sr., that same year. Sacramento became a Chapter of the First Tee in 1999.
Morton, a PGA Master Professional and Chief Executive Officer for Morton Golf LLC, was inducted into the National PGA Hall of Fame in 2005 and has been honored as the National PGA Professional of the Year in 1998 and with the California Golf Writers Golf Person of the Year Award.
Dixon was 11 years old when she joined the junior programs at Haggin Oaks.
“It was just a wonderful, great start,” said Dixon. “Golf has given me so much. I was able to play in high school. I met so many friends from there. I met my husband (Bill Dixon), who was also involved with golf at El Camino. In high school, I also volunteered with the California Eagles, a program that we do for individuals with disabilities.”
Dixon was a volunteer with First Tee – Greater Sacramento during her high school years.
She reached the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Public Links Championship, a USGA event, in 1992.
Dixon graduated from El Camino in 1990 and earned her degree in business, graduating from Washington in 1994.
“It was an amazing experience, playing golf for four years (in college),” she said. “Looking back, that was just such a great time, flying all over the nation, playing events and being a student athlete and all that it entails.”
Dixon turned pro after college and after returning home worked as a teaching professional at Haggin Oaks, which has two courses, and also volunteered with the First Tee.
She and her husband, Bill Dixon, went to work for Rick Smith, a top instructor, at Treetops in Michigan.
She started the girls golf program in 1994 at Loretto High, a small parochial school in Sacramento, and was the head coach there for 14 years.
“We had a lot of great girls on the team and good camaraderie,” said Dixon. “Several of the girls that came out for the team, I would encourage them to join the First Tee and they became even stronger players by being involved in the First Tee.”
Dixon spent three years at Whitney Oaks Golf Club in Rocklin as Director of Instruction starting in 1997 and developed a junior program there.
She left Whitney Oaks and went to Woodcreek Golf Club in Roseville, working there as a teaching professional and advisor to the junior program.
“Ken Morton Sr. asked me if I would be interested in working with the First Tee. I said, ‘Absolutely,’ ” said Dixon.
She was inducted into the Sacramento Golf Hall of Fame in 2012.
Leading First Tee – Greater Sacramento
Dixon started off with First Tee – Greater Sacramento, which operates year-round, as director of competitive activities.
Sacramento is one of 160 chapters of the First Tee, which was formed through a partnership among the LPGA, Masters Tournament, PGA of America, PGA Tour and the U.S. Golf Association, according to www.firstteesacramento.org. The First Tee began in 1997. According to www.firstteesacramento.org, “First Tee 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.”
The mission of the First Tee 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.”
There are 11 golf courses in the Sacramento area that are involved with the First Tee. There are three main delivery channels that First Tee – Greater Sacramento uses to provide its curriculum: at golf courses, at elementary schools through the First Tee school program, and through partnerships and outreach programs.
“In Sacramento, we build relationships with the golf courses, with the program that they already have in place,” said Dixon.
“It’s very rewarding. We do great work with young people in this region. The First Tee is all about guiding – guiding young people at what’s inside and strength and character. It’s not just the golf course, but in school and in life.” The First Tee’s “Nine Core Values,” according to www.firstteesacramento.org, “represent some of the many inherently positive values connected with the game of golf. By participating in First Tee, kids are introduced to these core values which are incorporated throughout the program.”
Honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment are the First Tee’s “Nine Core Values.”
“I think the most rewarding thing for me is seeing these kids who join us when they’re young,” said Dixon. “They might be shy and lacking confidence. To see them, and the growth, once they graduate from our program, is just such a rewarding experience.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dixon said First Tee – Greater Sacramento created a virtual platform, so that its members can stay engaged with the programs.
“I am extremely proud of our team at First Tee. We definitely adapted in the pandemic. As soon as golf was kind of starting to be seen as acceptable, we started back up in June and really put in place all of the safety measures. The staff has done an outstanding job. It seems that the young people were so happy for some sort of an activity to do that we actually had more young people coming out for golf this summer than we have had in the past.”
First Tee – Greater Sacramento, a nonprofit organization, includes its staff, executive board, and board of directors.
“Our board really works hard in our community at raising the funds needed for the organization. 2020 was a tough year for us, but there were definitely some bright spots. I will say that this community is a very giving community,” said Dixon.
“I’m hopeful that in 2021, the community will just continue to be behind the program and supporting and partnering with us to do the great work that we do.”
Angie and Bill Dixon have three daughters: Emily (21), Abigail (18) and Madelyn (14).
Bill Dixon is the manager of the Super Shop at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex.
Cameron Champ and First Tee – Greater Sacramento
Sacramento’s Cameron Champ, the winner of two events on the PGA Tour, was introduced to the game by his grandfather, Mack Ray Champ, and spent 11 years with First Tee – Greater Sacramento, starting out with Little Linkers.
“Mack Champ, an amazing individual, poured so much into his grandson,” said Angie Dixon.
“Cameron Champ is a world-class golfer, but he is a world-class individual. And that is what we are most proud of. He is just a great young man. He carries himself so well, on and off the golf course.”
Champ shot a 3-under-par 69 in the final round on the North Course and won the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa in 2019. He finished the tournament at 17-under 271.
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.