First Tee's 'Partners' Proves Hit at CCNC
It was the first, but everyone involved enthusiastically agreed that it won’t be the last. The Country Club of North Carolina hosted the inaugural Nine-Hole First Tee Partner’s Scramble, and if indications are accurate, a new threshold in the First Tee of the Sandhills Chapter has been crossed.
“It went off without a hitch,” said Bob Hepner, a member of the Tin Whistles Club and a driving force behind the popular Tin Whistles-First Tee Tour that highlights the group’s summer outings.
The event, which is hoped to be repeated at several Pinehurst area courses over the coming weeks, featured a scramble format with two First Tee players, three adult players, a forecaddie and a scorer.
Each of the nine holes displayed a placard bearing one of The First Tee’s “Core Values”: Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect, Confidence, Responsibility, Perseverance, Courtesy and Judgment.
A photographer roamed the course taking pictures of each group and when it was over each First Tee player received a small gift.
Jessica Grady is a 14-year-old student at West Pine Middle School, and she was playing CCNC’s Cardinal Course for the third time. She loves the course, but liked other features of the outing at least as well.
“The best part was being introduced to so many nice people,” she said.
“The greens were fast and the rough was thick, but it was a lot of fun. I made a 12-foot putt on our last hole.”
A shotgun start on the back nine of the Cardinal at 4 p.m. ensured that the teams finished at approximately the same time, and they were then treated to prizes and a cookout featuring hot dogs and hamburgers.
Richard Pabst is one of the adults who participated.
“I was invited to a First Tee dinner last year and got interested,” he said. “I’ve been a volunteer ever since. I really enjoyed watching the two boys in our group — Eric and Nick — play. We started on the fifth hole, ‘Confidence,’ and everybody had fun and played well. There were quite a few CCNC members involved, and I think there will be more.”
Connie Lovell is one of the CCNC members who is enthused by the concept.
“Connie is a driving force behind the program,” Hepner said. “She’s a First Tee board member and chair of the event.”
Lovell doesn’t try to hide her enthusiasm for the program.
“When we first moved here, I was looking for a young caddie and didn’t know where to find one,” she said. “You can’t just get anyone to do that.
“I met Bob Klug (a local Realtor who is the current First Tee board president), and he recommended The First Tee. These kids are already vetted in what it takes to be a caddie. They’re polite and courteous, and they know the rules. It’s been perfect for me and the kids.”
One kid who must have thought the Tuesday outing was close to perfect was 8-year-old Javon Cole. Cole ran in a 15-foot putt for birdie on the No. 2 hole, then went to the par-3 third hole and hit an iron to within a foot of the cup and knocked that in for another birdie.
“The whole idea is to create an awareness of what The First Tee of the Sandhills is all about,” Hepner said in a short address during the cookout. “All we’re doing is what you as parents do. It’s just that all children aren’t born with the same opportunities.
“We’re working on starting other programs, both in Moore County and in some surrounding counties. We have one in Pembroke and one in Candor, and are trying to start a program at Fort Bragg for children of the military.”
Connor Toole is an 18-year-old student at Sandhills Community College who has been a First Tee “kid” for seven years.
“This was my first opportunity to play CCNC and I really enjoyed it,” he said. “The people I played with were great, and the whole atmosphere was really nice.”
Dalton Wheeless is a 13-year-old New Century Middle School student who was also seeing CCNC for the first time.
“I like the course a lot,” he said with a smile that proved the point. “I putted pretty well, too, after I got used to the fast greens.
Dale Briggs, the director of golf at Knollwood Golf Course, may have summed the afternoon up best.
“Anytime you get to play a wonderful facility like CCNC and enjoy watching some great kids have a great experience, it’s special,” he said. “I can’t say enough about The First Tee. It’s a very important organization.”
Pinehurst Country Club’s No. 7 Course will host the second Partners event Oct. 7.
Anyone wishing to join the Partners Program or needing more information can contact executive director Bill Baker at (910) 783-8288 or email@example.com.
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