by Bill Turner
First Tee Roanoke Valley was front and center at The Greenbrier Resort Tuesday as our local chapter participated in day-long activities in conjunction with Youth Day at The Greenbrier Classic PGA TOUR stop. It was the third consecutive year First Tee Roanoke joined First Tee West Virginia chapters at the posh White Sulphur Springs resort.
Members of The First Tee were able to observe the pros on the practice tee adjacent to The Old White TPC course, before participating in a clinic sponsored by Polo Golf at the nearby Meadows Fairway. In its third year as sponsor, Polo Golf had numerous giveaways for all First Tee members and their family members.
The most anticipated event of the afternoon was the First Tee Scramble, where four First Tee members split up to team with a pair of PGA pros, Jonathan Byrd and Billy Horschel, in a three-hole scramble-format tournament. The charity purse, split between the two chapters, was a nifty $10,000.
First Tee Roanoke Valley was represented by Alex Hart, a rising senior at Salem HIgh School. According to First Tee’s Mary Beth McGirr, Director of Programming and Instruction, Hart was chosen due to him being the most consistent volunteer, and his participation in the YMCA after-school program.
Hart was the shining star in the event. Hitting first among the four First Tee participants, Hart smoked a picture-perfect drive, calmly splitting the fairway on the first hole of The Old White with spectators lining the left side.
Paired with Horschel and First Tee West Virginia’s Lauren Davidson, Hart clinched the victory with a pressure chip on The Old White’s signature par-3 18th hole.
“This is such an unbelievable experience,” Hart noted on the first tee as the players posed for photographers and television media. “I’ve known about my selection for a couple months. This is going to be fun.”
The mission of First Tee is to impact lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values, such as confidence, perseverance and judgement, through the game of golf.
In other tournament sidebars Tuesday, the media was treated to an interview session with Tiger Woods, fresh off his Sunday win at the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, his 74th career win.
Woods said he was excited about being at The Greenbrier, and noted how the change of tournament dates fit his schedule perfectly, especially falling two weeks before the British Open.
“I wanted to play it (The Classic) last year, it fit in my schedule, but I was hurt,” Woods pointed out. “But, this year again it worked out perfectly. It’s close to DC and we get a week off after this to get ready for the British.”
Woods also talked about golfing legend Sam Snead, the first pro-emeritus at The Greenbrier. “You know, I met Sam when I was five,” Woods noted, laughing. “He was doing an outing where he would play with a new group every two holes. I was this little snot-nosed kid that he had to play the last two holes with.”
“That was the first time I ever met Sam, but after that we had countless dinners and conversations. He was always so funny to be around… and the needling was nonstop.”
“Sam’s record’s are just absolutely phenomenal,” Woods added of Sneads 82 PGA wins. “He didn’t exactly have easy guys to play against . . . Hogan and Nelson – those guys aren’t chops. Sam’s swing is one of the classic swings that we all try and replicate.”
Later in the afternoon, current Greenbrier pro-emeritus Tom Watson talked about his participation in this year’s event.
Make no mistake about it, Watson is the ultimate gentleman, and one who values the tradition, sportsmanship and core values of the game.
“I’m still approach every tournament with a competitive nature that I can still win,” Watson said of his chances this week. “The Old White has new challenges, but I’ve got a few surprises up my sleeve.” Irregardless, Watson will be a fan-favorite throughout the week with the Greenbrier gallery expected to approach a quarter million before the final shot Sunday afternoon.