First Tee – Greater Sacramento Big Week Ahead.
Six juniors from the organization will be traveling to the Monterey Peninsula, as they were each selected earlier this summer to play in the 2023 PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee. It’s a PGA Tour Champions event and is played at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course.
The announcement of the 80 First Tee participants selected to play in the 2023 PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee was made on July 10 by First Tee and PGA Tour Champions.
Now in its 20th year, the tournament features teens, ages 14 to 18, representing 44 First Tee chapters across the country, playing with PGA Tour Champions players and two amateurs from the business field.
The event is hosted by the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and televised by Golf Channel.
The full junior field was revealed live on Golf Channel’s “Golf Today,” according to a report, at firsttee.org.
“It’s just a really amazing experience,” said Angie Dixon, Executive Director of First Tee – Greater Sacramento. “We’ve had some really wonderful pairings over the years. What’s really neat about this event is that sometimes they go and they don’t even know who their pro is. He’s kind of either a journeyman pro, or someone that’s new to the PGA Tour, or just someone that’s not as well known. And they still have these just amazing experiences with these people. As it turns out, it’s wonderful.
“The other thing that the kids all really talk about, and really love, are the amateurs they’re paired with. They have all these very influential people in business that play, and they really enjoy that experience as well.”
Selected to play from First Tee – Greater Sacramento:
- Tavia Burgess: Burgess, 17, is a senior at Granite Bay High School. She joined First Tee when she was 7. She has volunteered over 80 hours, which includes the life skills programs. She was selected to play in the First Tee National Championship at the University of Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course last year.
- Garrett Harrison: Harrison, 17, is a senior at Granite Bay High School. He joined First Tee at the age of 8 and has played in several of its junior tournaments. He has volunteered over 40 hours. He recently committed to play golf at Washington State University.
- Alaythia Hinds: Hinds, 17, is a senior at Pleasant Grove High School-Elk Grove. She has been with First Tee for the last six years.
- Lillian McGowan: McGowan, 16, is a junior at Union Mine High School. She joined First Tee in 2020.
- Akira Ransi: Ransi, 16, is a junior at Folsom High School. He’s been a member of First Tee since the age of 8. He’s volunteered over 100 hours.
- Andre Zhang: Zhang, 18, is a senior at Davis High School. He’s been a member of First Tee since he was 5. He’s volunteered over 50 hours.
“They all have a little bit of different backgrounds with us,” said Dixon. “Some of them started with us super young. Tavia Burgess, for instance, has been in the program for many years. She’s been involved for a long time.”
Getting selected for the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee, an event that has a $2.3 million purse and in past years has had Kevin Sutherland of Sacramento and former Sacramento resident Scott McCarron in the field, is a pinnacle achievement, said Dixon.
“This is what a lot of the kids who play in our program competitively are seeing as like, Oh, I want to be able to one day play in the PURE Insurance Championship,” said Dixon.
“It’s kind of just a neat thing for the kids to be striving for, to one day be able to play in this tournament. Typically, it is a very competitive thing to be accepted for, especially at our chapter. And that is because at our chapter we have a competitive playing program for our junior tour program. The junior tour has over 300 kids in it, who play competitive golf, like 25 tournaments a year.”
The field for the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee consists of 80 PGA Tour Champions players, 80 First Tee junior players, and 160 amateur players.
According to www.pureinsurancechampionship.com:
- Professional (individual).
- Pro-Junior Team Male/Female (team best ball).
- Amateur Team (foursome net best ball).
First Tee – Greater Sacramento has the most players from a chapter selected for the event.
“It’s sweet that we have more than any other chapter at the event,” said Dixon. “To date, we’ve had more people play in that tournament than any other chapter in the nation.”
A participant from First Tee – Morocco will be in the field for the third straight year.
First Tee, according to a report, at firsttee.org, 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 report said.
“PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee showcases participants across the First Tee chapter network and celebrates their dedication to the game of golf and living out their character strengths and values as they strive to make an impact in their local communities,” the report, at firsttee.org, said.
The tournament provides “life-changing mentoring opportunities,” the report said.
“To be selected, juniors are measured on their playing ability as well as their personal growth and life skills learned through First Tee’s programs.”
Participants are selected by a national panel of judges based on their personal growth and development through First Tee’s programs, as well as their playing ability, the report said.
“On average, participants have been involved with First Tee for more than seven years, have a 3.95 GPA and have recorded a 1.5 handicap,” the report said.
Alaythia Hinds of First Tee – Greater Sacramento received an exemption into PURE Insurance Championship based on finishing second place in the girls division at the First Tee National Championship, held in July at Stanford Golf Course, First Tee Headquarters, based in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL., said.
First Tee – Greater Sacramento is only allowed to submit five applications each year to the First Tee Headquarters for the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee, said Dixon.
There is a lot that goes into submitting an application for the tournament. This includes community service and how involved they are within their chapter, participating in life-skill sessions before playing in tournaments, writing an essay, and being interviewed.
“To get into this tournament, it takes quite a bit of work on their part and completing the application,” said Dixon. “The essays are to see how they can convey the impact First Tee has on them.
“Each year, we may have anywhere from like 8 to 15 kids that apply to be in the PURE Insurance tournament. We hold a pre-selection process where we go through and read their essays and score their application, how we feel that they would be scored by the national office, to pick who we feel are the five strongest applicants.”
In order to be eligible, juniors must also have a required U.S. Golf Association Handicap Index for their age group.
“I’m so proud to continue our involvement with this incredible event,” Martin Leitch, CEO of PURE Insurance, said in a report, at firsttee.org. “Being selected to play in this tournament speaks volumes about the character of each of these 80 participants and I’m so excited to see this unforgettable experience play out for them.”
The first two rounds will be played at Pebble Beach and Spyglass. Twenty-four First Tee juniors advance to the final round, to be played at Pebble Beach. According to a report, at firsttee.org, the tournament will crown one male and one female First Tee Junior Champion.
Lillian McGowan said she has benefitted so much from being with First Tee – Greater Sacramento.
“They got me started with everything involved and have been my biggest supporters through the entire time I’ve been golfing. They’ve given me lots of experiences and opportunities to just do different things,” said McGowan. “I’ve been really lucky with them. Lucky to have Angie (Dixon) and Brittany (O’Bryant), who have given me all these opportunities and mentored me through everything and have helped me.
“As I’ve progressed, and gotten better, in all different parts of the game, I continue to learn all these values from First Tee, with all the support I have from that.”
McGowan said it’s been her goal for a long time to be selected for the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee.
“I’m extremely honored. I feel like the luckiest person in the world,” she said. “The week is going to be incredible. Everything combined is just going to make it super special. It’s going to be an amazing experience.”
It’s the first time to play Pebble Beach for each junior player from First Tee – Greater Sacramento.
“It will be a great experience for them,” said Brittany O’Bryant, Junior Tour & Competitions Director for First Tee – Greater Sacramento. “It’s absolutely awesome. I’m so excited for them all. They definitely did work hard, in order to apply and go through the process.
“There’s a golf resume and there’s extra-curricular activities. These kids have great golf scores. It’s going be a great week for them, for sure. I know that they’re going to have a great time. They’ll play great.
“They’ll get to play with pros and amateurs and get to meet lots of different people.”
O’Bryant played in the event in 2016. She graduated from Pleasant Grove High-Elk Grove.
Over the years, more than 1,000 juniors from First Tee chapters around the country 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,” a report, at firsttee.org, said.
“Earning the opportunity to play at the PURE Insurance Championship is a goal for many First Tee participants,” Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO, said in a report, at firsttee.org. “Congratulations to the 80 teens who will represent First Tee at this year’s event. This marks the 20th anniversary of the tournament, and we are grateful to our partners at PURE Insurance, PGA Tour Champions, Pebble Beach Resorts, Monterey Peninsula Foundation and Golf Channel for their ongoing commitment to First Tee. Our alumni who have played at the PURE Insurance Championship have told us it is a life-changing opportunity, and we are so excited for the 80 First Tee teens who will get to experience it in September.”
First Tee is a nonprofit youth development organization that is supported by the PGA Tour, according to www.pgatour.com.
The mission of First Tee, according to www.pgatour.com, “is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character and instill life-enhancing values through the game of golf. Since 1997, First Tee has expanded to reach millions of kids annually through its network of 150 chapters, 11,000 schools and 1,900 youth centers.”
Programs offered by First Tee – Greater Sacramento include RISE Golf, Little Linkers and the Junior Tour.
According to the organization’s website, firstteesacramento.org:
“We enable kids to build the strength of character that empowers them through a lifetime of new challenges. By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with life skills curriculum, we create learning experiences that build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that kids carry to everything they do.”
First Tee program locations are at golf courses that teach First Tee life skills curriculum, according to firstteesacramento.org.
“All participants at our program locations become members of First Tee — Greater Sacramento and they also receive a free Northern California Golf Association’s Youth on Course membership, which provides juniors with green fees of $5 or less at hundreds of regional courses.
“All of our program locations subscribe to First Tee — Greater Sacramento’s mission 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.”
The Monterey Peninsula Foundation and First Tee are the benefiting charities.
*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.
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