The First Tee Comes Home to TPC Sawgrass!

TPC Sawgrass, everyone knows, is the ‘Home of THE PLAYERS Championship.’

TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse

Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass is all decked out for Military Tribute and Championship!

The crown jewel of the TPC network is also home to the PGA TOUR. Within a quarter mile of the Clubhouse, in the opposite direction, of the famed island 17th green, is the east and west corporate headquarters buildings of the world’s premium golf tour. On the corner of Championship Way and PGA TOUR Boulevard, is the portrait of three-time PLAYERS champion Jack Nicklaus. A chip shot away is the office of Tim Finchem, the Commissioner of the PGA TOUR.

For the first time, the eighth annual ‘Taste of Golf,’ benefiting The First Tee of North Florida, was held at the Clubhouse during the Tour Championship. The event marked a symbolic homecoming, in the sense that The First Tee has now matured to the age of ‘Sweet 16.’ Commissioner Tim Finchem and President George H. W. Bush, No. 41, kicked off The First Tee in New York City’s Central Park in November 1997. President George W. Bush, No. 43, took over for his father as Honorary Chairman in 2011. The First Tee was established through the World Golf Foundation and its founding members—the USGA, LPGA, Masters Tournament, PGA of America and the PGA TOUR.

As a sign of the times for the expanding organization, Joe Louis Barrow, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of The First Tee, was not present at the major fundraising event for the flagship North Florida chapter. Instead, he was at the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, a Champions Tour event that pairs a junior with a professional and they compete together as a team.

Kirk Triplett and Michelle Xie win the 2013 Nature Valley First Tee Open.

Kirk Triplett and Michelle Xie win the 2013 Nature Valley First Tee Open.

This year was another ‘Cinderella Story’ at Pebble Beach with Michelle Xie, from the First Tee of Silicon Valley, playing Cinderella instead of Bill Murray. Kirk Triplett, who won the individual pro tournament, also won the Pro-Junior with Michelle, a 15-year old junior at Palo Alto High School. Two years ago, D.A. Points teamed up with the lovable Carl Spackler, to capture the same double win in the AT&T National Pro-Am.

Over 700 juniors from across the United States have had the incredible experience of playing Pebble Beach with a professional golfer in a golfing competition. The real impact of the First Tee program, is the program—the Code of Conduct, the Nine Core Values and the Nine Healthy Habits. By 2011, the dynamic and proven youth development program had reached over 7 million kids. At that time, the primary goal of the supporting organization was supercharged to reach another 10 million kids by 2017. The First Tee has fully come of age.

To the credit of the coaches and program leaders, the First tee of North Florida quietly communicates a 100% success rate. All of the Jacksonville area kids who have come through the First Tee graduate from high school and go on to college, with an academic or golf scholarship. The program is making a meaningful impact on young people and our communities. The First Tee is the best investment for your charitable dollars.

Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass was transformed into an art gallery for the 'Taste of Golf.'

Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass was transformed into an art gallery for the ‘Taste of Golf.’

The Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass was transformed into an art gallery with many nationally recognized artists participating, with a portion of their sales going directly to The First Tee. ‘Taste of Golf’ Chairwoman Milan Moore and Jen Jones, Executive Director of Jacksonville’s Unity Plaza, recruited Keith Doles, Ted Johnson, Robert Leedy, Peter Blunt, Randy Pitts, Gordon Meggison, Marilyn Antram, Paul Ladiner, Barbara Quigley, Heather Blanton, Will Dickey and Suzanne McCourt, the Lady Artist from Pebble Beach. Suzanne, the neo-realism painter of golf’s historic moments, became the first woman to create the artwork for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am program in 2010.

Remember the night was entitled “A Taste of Golf.” The food delicacies, presented for consumption by the guests, included Shrimp Scampi Dijonnaise (Executive Chef Gary McKinsey, Deerwood CC); Nabchego-Stuffed Duck Meatball (Executive Chef Kira Lewis, Hidden Hills CC); Salmon in Two Preparations (Executive Chef Jason Hall, Certified Master Chef, Hammock Dunes); Beer Braised Pork Cheeks (Executive Chef Michael Ramsay, Jacksonville Golf & CC); Jumbo Lump Crab Tamales (Executive Chef Jerry Snider, San Jose CC); Duroc Pork Belly & Sweet Pea Sea Scallop (Executive Chefs Dan Webber and Marvin McClelland, Sawgrass CC); Grilled Wagyu Beef (Executive Chef LJ Coussin, TPC Sawgrass) and Sweet Potato Gnocchi (Executive Chef Brent Lynch, World Golf Village).

Amazing signs by Tory Eulenfeld of the National Golf Course Restaurant Association (NGCRA)

Amazing signs by Tory Eulenfeld of the National Golf Course Restaurant Association (NGCRA)

For dessert there were a Trilogy of Truffles, Mint Meringue, Chocolate Crunch Macaron and a Chocolate Blood Orange Hazelnut Shooter (Executive Pastry Chef Caitlin Schneider-Frantz, Jacksonville Golf & CC and Chef Nils Rowland, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club).

The festival night at the Clubhouse was memorable, with a lot of dignities including Mr. & Mrs. ‘59’ Jim and Tabitha Furyk, Amanda Balionis and Cole Pepper. There were several auctions and a significant portion of the chapter’s annual budget was raised.

Even more enduring is a trip to the Brentwood Course at the First Tee of North Florida facility. This is the same ground upon which Sam Snead won two of his record 82 PGA TOUR victories in the first two Jacksonville Opens. Brentwood is open to the public. With grass practice tees, inexpensive green fees, along with encouragement to walk, it is an ideal golfing facility.

As good as the golfing opportunity is, the chance to meet and play with the kids is even better. While the First Tee is all about the future, playing Brentwood gives older golfers the ability to reminisce and play like a kid again. One can’t help but notice, and reflect upon, the bridge over the railroad tracks heading to the second tee. Sports and education integrate and lift communities and the same is true at the First Tee of North Florida. These kids are going to go in any direction they so choose. The First Tee gives them that choice.

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