A Final Recap from our Executive Director, Courtney Stiles
Pebble Beach is breathtaking. Literally. My health tracker said we climbed the equivalent of 13 flights of stairs across 8 miles, daily, for five days!
During our trip to California for the Pure Insurance Championship, I learned I love walking the fairways whether swinging the clubs or carrying the bag. But, I’m terrible at spectating from ‘outside the ropes’. Antsy, anxious, and sweaty. Just terrible.
Everyone has a story. A story on how they learned integrity, the hard way, how they show judgment on a daily basis, and how they apply confidence, without being cocky.
I saw first-hand that The Pure Insurance Championship benefiting The First Tee is truly a once-in- a-lifetime experience.
It’s an all-expense paid trip across the country to meet 81 other like skilled and like-minded high school age kids, 82 top-notch Champions Tour professionals, and their caddies, as well as 164 successful business executives, community leaders, artists and celebrities.
But it doesn’t come easy. At a minimum, participants must be actively enrolled in The First Tee for three years, or nine sessions, a Birdie Level participant and a single digit golfer. After those hurdles are checked off, then comes the application process. There’s a golf resume, school and community activities chart, five essays, and finally an in-person interview with a local board of director member, volunteers, coaches and staff representatives.
Once all of these items have been completed and submitted, you wait, and wait, for about 60 days, until the field selection is made, on none-other than, national television!
If selected, the next phase begins.
From practicing public speaking, prepping her golf game and stamina, as well as playing Pebble Beach Golf Links, repeatedly, on the Tiger Woods PGA TOUR video game – Mara did it all. With that said, let’s be honest, you can’t completely prepare for this experience at the age of 15.
From leaving Eastern Standard Time, for the first time, staying in private housing, playing golf during the day, every day, and attending sponsor and leadership events every night. The schedule was tight and kept each of us on our tired toes!
Everyday featured a new hurdle to conquer. A new experience to take in. A new moment to be present and enjoy to its fullest.
For Mara, her week looked like this: Tuesday she was up at 2:00am EST, arrived at Pebble Beach for player registration at 3:00pm PST, met her host family, attended Junior Orientation, attended the PURE Welcome Party and Pairings unveiling event, and finally went to bed at 9:00pm PST… 22 hours after getting up for the day!
Each subsequent day was similar, awaking anywhere between 4:30am and 6:30am, and going to bed around 9:30pm.
After Wednesday’s practice round, where she played with 2016 Champion, Paul Broadhurst, participants attended the Champions Dinner where they would mingle with Champions Tour Players, Pro Am partners, key Pebble Beach staff and area business executives.
Thursday’s post golf activities were probably the longest, yet most impactful, as they attended the Legends and Leaders Event at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. The event featured CEOs and celebrities from all over the country who had taken the time to come and speak about one of the Nine Core Values that has had significance in their life.
From Condoleezza Rice, Matt Ginella, Kevin Sorbo, Alfonso Ribeiro, Leon Panetta, and others, their messages were impactful and well worth the later bedtime.
During the first two tournament rounds, Mara was paired with Champions Tour player, Jim Carter. Mr.Carter and his caddie, Tommy, were an invaluable asset to Mara’s experience.
Playing ‘inside the ropes’ at a major event brings up a lot of different emotions and Mara having the opportunity to work through these taught her invaluable life lessons at every turn.
From seeing how Jim used judgment, when navigating a difficult course, how he persevered through a bad hole, and re-engaged to make the next hole better. Then, the amateurs in our pairing, how a smile never left their face and you wouldn’t know if they were under par or nowhere close to breaking a 100!
My most proud chaperone moment was on Day 2 when Mara faced Holes 6, 7 and 8. She had talked about these holes all week. About how she played them the most on her TW golf game at home and was skeptical about conquering them in person.
But, when we arrived to this group of holes, Mara pushed her nerves down and smiled through the apprehension. While her smile may have not radiated through her face the entire time, I could see it in her eyes. She conquered hitting her second shot over the cliff on Hole 6, safely navigating her tee shot onto the green on Hole 7, and making it to the green in two on Hole 8.
Being provided the opportunity to attend the Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach as Mara’schaperone was a truly special experience. I’ve watched Mara grow over the last three years, and after having spent many hours with her these last few weeks, I am excited to see what her future holds.
This national event and the countless others that The First Tee provides our local youngsters the opportunity to attend are well worth the multi-year investment in our local programs.
I can’t wait to see what’s up next for our kiddos here in the Sandhills!